Opinion: Veteran’s Day discounts sparks controversy

Whether it’s selflessly serving and asking for nothing in return, protesting against companies’ exploitation of holidays, or simply lacking interest to inquire at all, asking for an additional discount does not always set well with those who serve or have served in the U.S. military.

Veteran’s Day was this past Friday, and many service members — both past and present — participated in a number of discounted activities. Many local food franchises like Red Robin, Applebee’s and IHOP promote exclusive offers for active-duty and retired service members on this holiday, which often includes free meals. Other retailers, like Under Armour and Home Depot, advertise a military discount year round.

Military Times contributed a comprehensive directory for service members this year, including tips to get the most out of their discounts, as well as a detailed checklist of the various deals going on nationwide.

From a civilian standpoint, it may seem like common sense to take advantage of these savings. Within the military community, however, controversy surrounds the issue. Some argue that it is unprofessional — while others claim its special treatment. However, Senior Airman Erika Diaz — who does not partake in Veteran’s Day discounts herself — defends those who do by saying, “They sign a contract with many restrictions and not to mention to include their life. If a store offers it and is including it in their budget I don’t see what is wrong with using what they provide to support the cause.”

With spouses and dependents of military service members, even more controversy erupts. Most retailers extend their discounts to direct family members of an Armed Forces member, but this is not always welcomed by the military community. Asking for discounts makes some spouses feel awkward, since they are not serving themselves, while others downright feel it is wrong. Last year, retired Lt. Col. Dave Duffy calling out spouses and veterans who demanded discounts in the Washington Post, claiming it brought a sense of entitlement and separation to military and civilian relations. But according to Staff Sgt. Robert Conner, “It doesn’t bother me that people ask for discounts whether they’re active duty, retired, or a spouse. I don’t know what their financial situation is.” Conner added, “but if they throw a fit because they don’t have one it annoys me. ”

A 12-year retired Army Warrant Officer, now military spouse, says she subtly gives her Dependent ID to cashiers since shopping is her pastime. However, she never expects businesses to give her discounts.

Considering a little over 1,362,665 veterans and active-duty are currently living, according to U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Defense, that means less than 1% of the United States’ population either is or was in some military service. To be honest, I doubt this small part of the populace will have a great effect on major businesses financially. So that leaves the decision to either ask for or accept a discount based on personal ethics — a choice I believe is up to the service member. Many have sacrificed for the right to accept the discount. Whether an active duty or retired military member received either a complimentary steak dinner at Black Angus or a free haircut at Great Clips, I hope they were able to reflect on their current or past service with a sense of pride in all they have done for their country.