Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show” and staunch advocate for veterans’ and first responders’ rights, called out the lack of public support for former military personnel at AMVETS’ Rolling to Remember Rally in Washington, D.C. during Memorial Day Weekend. “Where are the American people,” he asked.
The rally, which is — among other efforts — raising awareness for HR 3967, the Honoring our PACT Act of 2021, is a three-day motorcycle demonstration ride held annually to shed light on veterans’ issues, including high rates of suicide among former service people and those missing in action. In particular, the PACT Act, on which Stewart was demanding congressional action, aims to address “health care, presumption of service-connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service,” such as burn pits.
During his speech, however, Stewart noted that the attendees present included only those with a personal connection to veterans’ rights. “The people sitting behind me — it’s hard not to be here today and not get frustrated again because as I look out in the crowd, I see the same thing I always see: veterans and their families and caregivers. But where the American people?” he asked.
Additionally, Stewart pointed out the surface-level and performative support for veterans that he said would surely flood social media feeds, saying, “This is Memorial Day weekend. Man, you’re going to read the tweets this weekend. You’re going to look at the Facebook pages and you’re going to think to yourself, ‘Oh, does America love me. Boy, they love us.’ You’re going to go to Applebee’s. They’re going to give you them baby back ribs. Probably 20% off, not even 10%, because of how much they support you.”
The longtime comedian added that despite the online support, real action on part of nonveterans is often missing.
“And yet we come out here today looking for the support of the American people, and what do we have behind me? It’s veterans organizations. It’s veterans. It’s their families. This country can’t be this broken. If we can’t do the simple shit, we have nothing,” he concluded.
In 2019, Stewart received the Bronze Medallion — New York City’s highest civic honor — for his “tireless advocacy, inspiration, and leadership,” which contributed to the passing of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.
Veterans, who are often hard-pressed to find accessible mental health services and resources to transition back into civilian life, face high rates of suicide, homelessness and mental health disorders, such as PTSD and depression.