Today is officially Veterans Day in the United States, though much commemoration occurred yesterday, November 11th. This holiday coincides with remembrance of the end of the First World War eighty-nine years ago. A recent article in Street Sense about homelessness among veterans today made me think of the Bonus Army March on Washington in 1932. What was it about their experience in the Great War and Great Depression that made so many veterans coalesce into such a powerful movement?
MacArthur put down the protest violently and the veterans never received an early payout of their promised bonuses. Still, did their movement achieve something? Did it prepare officials and public opinion to treat the next generation of veterans more honorably? It would seem so, though I am not sure about the generations that came after the Second World War. Short memories. Today the public receives its most recent vets with open arms, because it remembers how poorly it treated Vietnam vets, but to what extent is this rhetoric being matched by government programs?