When you think about it, it isn’t strange that military imagery and symbolism play such a big role in everyday American life. After all those invasions and threats from Canada and Mexico, the reality of a war-struck way of life is never far away. The US is in two wars, mind you. Being in so many wars means there are a lot of veterans. Veterans should have a special place in society: they risked more than the rest of us, and that should be honored. You may ask yourself: is there such a thing as too much honor?
Well, if you ask me, veterans have gone a bridge too far this time. When the new river crossing from Missouri to Illinois was announced, two veterans started working on a petition to name the new bridge the ‘Veterans Memorial Bridge’, in a not-so-subtle attempt to honor veterans. I’m not against that. I rebel against their lack of creativity. You see, there already is a Veterans Memorial Bridge. And a Veterans Memorial Drive. Also, you can find a Veterans Memorial Park, a Veterans Memorial Amphitheater, a Veterans Memorial Museum and a Veterans Memorial Pond. The old bridge spanning the Mississippi is called the Martin Luther King Bridge. No need to bring that up, you might think, but it is formerly called the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
Clearly, the Veterans Memorial Bridge Lobby is a strong one. First of all, it is very easy to gather signatures for a name suggestion, as there are plenty of veterans around. I bet finding people willing to support the ‘Cover Mayor Slay in Tar and Feathers Bridge’ is a lot harder*. Second, nobody wants to vote down honoring veterans (even for creativity reasons), so there’s a good chance every bridge in this state will soon be called Veterans Memorial Bridge. But that isn’t the end of the story. Even though the name “Jerry F. Costello-William Lacy ‘Bill’ Clay Sr. Veterans Memorial Bridge” was voted down (probably by those who read traffic in the mornings), another name soon popped up. Stan Musial passed away just before the naming happened, and so from February on, the Musial bridge is part of my morning radio routine. Of course it’s middle name is Veterans Memorial, but who ever remembers a middle name?
*Hypothetical example. I do not want to cover Mayor Slay in tar and feathers, nor do I wish for anyone else to do so.