The Australian government announced this past weekend that Virgin Australia airlines would be offering priority boarding — and in-flight acknowledgements of military service — to the nation’s veterans as part of a continued national effort to recognize those who served.
But in a rare twist of 21st century humility, Australians have collectively told the airline to, as renowned wordsmith Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would say, take the offer, shine it up real nice, turn that sum’bitch sideways and stick it straight up Virgin’s candy ass.
“It’s a very American thing to do," Mike Carlton, author and Australian military historian, told the New York Times. "We’re not quite as loud or noisy as that. Australians are a little more subtle.”
“But Mike,” the unique sect of stereotypical dressed-like-an-operator vets might be thinking, “how in heaven’s name will Australian vets receive enough face-melting thank-you-for-your-service gratitude without shouting about service from a mountaintop?”
“It’s just not in our nature to do stuff like that," Carlton told the Times. “Almost any veteran I can think of would be hideously embarrassed by being singled out like that. I’ve interviewed a lot of them for my books. ... They would hate the notoriety of being singled out.”
While that feeling may be more internationally mutual than he realizes, some vets, like those mentioned by Carlton, chimed in on Twitter to vocalize their displeasure with the offer. Furthermore, a poll featuring over 3,500 participants revealed that 60 percent hated the idea, while 27 percent responded, “whatever.”
Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defence Association, told ABC Radio the misguided recognition could be especially unwelcome by vets who may be battling post-traumatic stress.
“Some people suffering psychological illnesses don’t like attention drawn to them,” he said.
Multiple U.S.-based airlines, meanwhile, have offered boarding and upgrade benefits to service members and veterans for some time now, with select airlines requiring personnel to be in uniform just to earn the benefit.
Because if there’s one thing uniformed personnel love to do in their spare time, it’s wear a uniform.
Virgin Australia’s decision to emulate such policies was initially touted as “tremendous" by Australian Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo, who told Sky News, “I want to congratulate Virgin for, in many respects, being a trailblazer.”
But so far, Australian vets are indicating that the trail being blazed is one leading to a factory of sadness, not joy.
“I think we are in danger of reaching peak veteran,” veteran Rodger Shanahan wrote in an op-ed. “For every veteran (howsoever defined) that thinks it is a good idea, there are others who would find it trite and embarrassing."
Ray Martin, a retired army officer, told The Sydney Morning Herald that similar U.S.-style benefits were proposed last year, but gained no traction among Australia’s veteran community, one that, much like many of their U.S. brethren, would rather see more substantial matters addressed, he said.
“Veterans don’t need lapels or gestures,” Martin said. “Our most vulnerable mates need practical support.”
The adamant veteran opposition to the gesture has led Virgin Australia to reconsider implementing the policy, a change of course the airline confirmed on Twitter.
“If this process determines that public acknowledgement of their service through optional priority boarding or any announcement is not appropriate, then we will certainly be respectful of that,” Virgin Australia tweeted.
Additional consultation with community groups will be conducted “to determine the best way forward.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.