As we approach another Memorial Day with our country at war, it will be interesting to watch the attendance at events around the country. We often hear from those in the anti-war ranks that they oppose the war but “support the troops.” And yet, when I attended last November’s Veterans’ Day observance in my hometown of Wakefield, Massachusetts, the level of support that I saw for our troops and for our veterans in general was disappointing at best.

The Galvin Middle School, named for former NATO Commander and Wakefield native Gen. John Rogers Galvin, should have been packed on Veterans’ Day, especially at a time when our country is at war. The Galvin School should have been overflowing with local residents paying tribute to our veterans and those currently serving in our armed forces around the world.

On top of that, the fine local singers and musicians who provided the patriotic Veterans’ Day musical program were deserving of support in their own right.

And yet, I would wager that the majority of people in the Galvin auditorium on Veterans’ Day were veterans who were participating in the ceremony, along with the musicians and singers who were also part of the program, plus a few town officials.

Certainly there were a few citizens there simply to honor the veterans. Others were there because a son or daughter or a friend or family member was performing as part of the program. And that’s perfectly fine—because at least they were there, showing respect for veterans and support for the performers.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that all 25,000 residents of Wakefield should have been at the Galvin School on Veterans’ Day. I am a realist, after all.

But the Galvin School auditorium has some 900 seats. I would estimate that there were no more than a couple of hundred people there, and that includes all the aforementioned choral groups, musicians and veterans who were part of the program.

Certainly there are legitimate reasons why many people could not attend, and no one is questioning that. Not everybody had the day off. I’m sure that some people had long-standing plans to go away for the holiday weekend, and others had unavoidable obligations. Those people are excused.

But where was everybody else?

Are there not even 900 people in this town who care enough to take one hour out of their Saturday morning to honor those who have fought for their country? Are there not even 500 people in Wakefield who are willing to give up one hour a year to show respect for the veterans of this country?

In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a surge in attendance at events like Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Feeling the immediate threat of terrorism, Americans wanted to show their patriotism and their support for veterans. Americans supported the war in Afghanistan. And it’s easy to forget that initially, public support for the war in Iraq was also quite high.

But just a few years later, memories of 9/11 have faded and many people have apparently soured on the war. Perhaps their reasons for opposing the war are legitimate.

But many of these same people who oppose the war in Iraq claim that they still support the troops. To those people I pose this question. Where were you on Veterans’ Day? You missed a perfect opportunity to show your support for the soldiers fighting for us now as well as those who fought in other wars.

Those who claim that they oppose the war but support the troops could have shown that support last Veteran’s Day. Instead, they showed their true colors.

They didn’t show up.

[This column originally appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item.]

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