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What Really Happens at a Soldier's Homecoming

Photograph by Getty Images

I have to admit, I watched the Super Bowl with one eye on the TV and one on the computer as I finished up some blog posts, caught up on social media and played around on Pinterest. But as a military family, all eyes in our home were focused on the TV during the sentimental “Coming Home” commercial aired by Budweiser.

In the military community the commercial has since received quite the range of reviews—from thunderous applause for the support, to significant distaste for the pandering of the U.S. military to sell beer.

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Obviously Budweiser wanted to highlight a cute young couple reunited in joy; not the single soldier returning to no one, the soldier returning to divorce papers or even an injured service member returning for treatment while receiving support from his family. These are not the images that the American public wants to experience while celebrating athletes’ high-salary fueled aggression. They want to see puppies and horses in love, cute couples celebrating and attractive women selling a myriad of economy-boosting crap.

Reintegration—the term used for the time it takes a soldier to reintegrate into normal society and adjust to being out of a war zone—is chaotic, confusing and extremely difficult. We all love to see tears of joy and big family hugs, but the reality is that even in those moments there is fear, doubt and an incredible amount of uncertainty about what the future holds for those reuniting. The commercial has aired, the parade has long since been cleared and these two spokespeople are well on their way to adjusting to life together again.

The commercial gave us one minute of feel-good Americana.

What would have been more inspiring—for both the military community and the American public as a whole —is an investment (and of course the resulting video clips) of Budweiser creating a hero’s welcome for the less glamorous returning stories: those with both the visible and invisible scars of war, for families that aren’t able to travel the distances, for soldiers without the strong support at home.

The wars are theoretically ending, but the experiences of these soldiers will continue to affect communities nationwide for years to come. The commercial gave us one minute of feel-good Americana, and gave Americans the illusion that their game-day Budweiser purchase is all about national pride and support for the troops. Viewers had the illusion that they participated, that there was a connection between themselves, the returning soldier and troops everywhere. After that minute was up and the moist eyes were dried, 99% of America returned to the task at hand: rooting for their team of choice with enthusiasm.

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Of course every soldier deserves a hero's welcome. Every soldier deserves a parade and a spectacle of celebration. But how has this investment—both in the cost of the ad and the festivities that preceded it—benefited the American community? Every day I see or hear about the tragic experiences of friends and family and am reminded about the fragility of our human experience. Let’s find more ways to foster a wide sense of support for the troops and provide plenty of feel-good fuzziness that makes people react with offers to donate, get involved or provide support in other ways. Let’s encourage action over reaction.

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