Guest Post: I asked my friend and Iraq War Marine Veteran Matt Howard what he thought of Budweiser’s “A Heroes Welcome I Super Bowl Ad.” Here is what he wrote:
I have an admission to make: I didn’t watch the Super Bowl this year, and the commercials. My veteran friend’s barely hid their disgust when they told me I had to see the Budweiser ad. So I pulled it up on Youtube:
I got misty eyed when the real life retuning soldier Lt. Chuck Nadd gets a small town ticker tape parade and hugs his mom; most people would (and that’s the point).
Then another strong emotion hit me: I wanted to throw my lap top across the room and stomp on it.
Don’t get me wrong, Lt. Chuck Nadd deserves his hometown’s respect, just as every returning veteran does. But let’s be clear, this ad was all about using our troops’ image to fuel beer sales.
Here’s my idea for a Bud ad:
A veteran returns home from their 4th deployment to Afghanistan with little fanfare and heads to the base hospital to refill his/her prescription for anti-anxiety meds to get some relief from their PTSD. As they get to their empty house they crack open an ice cold Bud…and wash it down with another 15 beers to help them reach an imperfect sleep. God knows the drinking helps with the nightmares.
Cut to the Budweiser logo and hashtag #SaluteAHero.
This ad would at least spark a necessary conversation and truly honor and support our returning veterans by posing tough questions.
The problem with Budweiser’s ad is that the homecoming they showcase erases the not-so-easy-to-market stories of veterans (2.5 million from Iraq and Afghanistan) returning home to high rates of suicide, domestic violence, addiction and alcoholism. It erases the fact that we don’t have big celebrations each time a service member returns from a deployment because there are far too many of them. Homecomings imply some sort of finality, that there won’t be anymore war and trauma to contend with. In an age of endless warfare the truth, unfortunately, is far from this.
Nearly a third of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated at the VA are diagnosed with PTSD (a statistic likely skewed low since less than half of returning vets use the VA) and a third of women vets who have served have experienced military sexual trauma (MST).
Every veteran deserves acknowledgement from their community to begin a process of healing. But in an era of multiple deployments for many service members how enthusiastic will Lt. Nadd’s hometown be after his fourth homecoming? How about his 10th? At that point maybe they would question why we were there in the first place.
Army Ranger Cory Remsburg honored last week at the State of the Union address had deployed 10 times to combat zones and barely made it out alive. Others won’t make it back.
When service members do return, their homecoming to a “normal” life often isn’t the fairy tale Budweiser painted, and that’s important. How we grapple with the effects of these wars, and the reasons we engaged in them, will determine our likelihood for putting young people in the same situation the next time.
Matt Howard served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter mechanic from 2001-2006 and deployed to Iraq twice. Originally from Portland, Oregon he now lives in Brooklyn and works with Iraq Veterans Against the War as the Communications Director.