The Veterans’ Perspective – Why Walmart’s Project Greenlight is a Red Light

By Elmer Ellsworth

Last night watching the World Series I saw that Walmart spent millions of dollars on advertising aimed at getting Americans to display green outdoor lights to honor Veterans.

So, how much money will Walmart make by selling green outdoor lights? And, of course, how much did that commercial cost? I apologize if I appear to be too cynical, but perhaps it is Walmart’s own fault.

If you read Walmart’s press release about the initiative it actually has less emphasis on the “display a green light” and more emphasis on their support for many Veteran related charitable organizations. And, Walmart has hired some retired General to be in charge of the program so it must be in touch with Veterans, right?

Watching the commercial, however, many Americans would be right to conclude that they are doing their part or just doing “good” by merely displaying a green light.

The truth is we have seen this before. It is nothing new. Years ago displaying yellow ribbons was a very nice gesture. Then it was magnetic yellow ribbons on cars. It used to be that just displaying the American Flag was all that was needed and for me that remains true.

To be clear, there are many people doing great things for Veterans. Many people do and will give large amounts to many great Veterans causes and organizations. I expect this will happen regardless of the number of green lights that are turned on. And, I expect Walmart is indeed doing good things for Veterans.

In today’s world there is no shortage of pro-Veteran advertisements and marketing campaigns. Frankly, the recruiting commercials paid for by Tax dollars help serve the same purpose, maybe even better.

The bottom line is that I am indeed skeptical about the motivations of Walmart and others. Here is why:

  • The VA is still broken and dysfunctional. And, now, some Presidential candidates have made it acceptable to accuse me and anybody else who makes that statement of being politically partisan just for stating that fact. (I focused on this topic in my prior article “A Day at the VA” so I won’t dive in on this point any further today, but let’s just say its further evidence of the need for the Veterans’ Perspective)
  • Are all these Veteran programs really helping to provide Veterans with a voice? Are people spending more time listening to and understanding the concerns of Veterans?
  • There is a great deal of focus on the “returning Veteran” but in the year 2015 what does that term even mean? Veterans have been “returning” for 15 years ….
  • Is hiring a Veteran for an entry level position something that deserves recognition and praise from the rest of America? Should Companies be boasting about hiring people who are qualified? Are these marketing campaigns or are they public service initiatives?
  • Does placing a “victim” tag on Veterans serve to help Veterans? Let’s be honest, part of the problem facing many Veterans is that many people hold a view that Veterans are the victims and examples of the mistakes of one political party AND some people even believe that Veterans deserve to have problems or (more subtlety) have contributed to their own problems because of their own actions or inactions.
  • PTSD is indeed a problem, and for many, now overcoming the “stigma” and “label” is as much of a problem as the symptoms themselves.

I have been a Veteran for a while. I have experienced the employment challenges facing Veterans first hand. I don’t expect nor ask for special consideration … yet I also have never been asked to provide my opinion; I have never been asked what problems I have; Nor have I been asked what ideas I have; and, I have not been given me any opportunity because of my Veteran status.

I am most certainly not alone – we know the issues and the problems. The one thing I can say with certainty is that displaying a green light outside my home will not help to solve the problems. If anything it will provide many ordinary Americans – even many well-intentioned ones – with the message that by displaying that green light they have helped to solve the problems. So it all stops right there.

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