Unless you were one of the few girls (or guys) watching a “Sex in the City” marathon last night or you’re un-American, chances are you were watching the Super Bowl. You also probably saw the brilliantly directed Budweiser commercial featuring a soldier from Florida who was welcomed home by a giant parade in his hometown. You may have lost it after a few close-ups of his girlfriend and family crying as they saw him for the first time in months, or maybe even years. Just like I did. I ugly cried so hard that not even the non-profit I work for wanted me to come back because my hideous face would have been such bad PR for them. I cried so hard because that commercial brought me back to that night in August of 2010 when my older brother came home from Afghanistan after nine grueling months at war. I cried so hard because for the first time ever, a commercial made me physically sick to my stomach.
I am so proud to be an American. I am honored that every day, countless brave men and women choose to give up their time at home with their loved ones to protect our blessed country. I appreciate that my safety is not a given, and that without their dedication and sacrifice, I may not be here today. My older brother went off to the war in Afghanistan a few years ago, and those were the nine longest months of my life. Every article, story, or mention of the war during his time overseas made my family and me cringe, and we prayed that he was far away from whatever danger highlighted the news that day. We tried to count down the days to his uncertain arrival home. The day he finally came home was the absolute best day of my life.
I’m normally an emotionless and down-to-earth person with an extremely dry and sarcastic sense of humor. I never understood when the actors in movies cried tears of joy and I swore that it would never happen to me. But the first time I hugged my brother in the safety of our country after nine months of torture? I was a train wreck. I was so overcome with emotion that I began bawling the moment we made eye contact. He was home. He was back. He was safe.
When I saw the Budweiser commercial last night, a few years after his homecoming, all I could think was, “What if cameras had been there during my reunion with my brother? What if Budweiser had exploited that emotion in order to sell beer to the rest of America?” I immediately texted my brother asking him his thoughts on the commercial, stating that it didn’t sit right with me. And what did he say? “I know what you mean.”
Apparently we aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Someone named Sgt. B. wrote a column for Duffel Blog–a website similar to The Onion but for military personnel–titled “Heartwarming Steel Reserve Super Bowl Ad Welcomes Soldier Home to Empty House, 40oz Beers.” The thought-provoking column gives a little perspective to Budweiser’s manipulative attempt at winning over the hearts of the American people. Not every soldier comes home to a patriotic parade, not every soldier comes home to family, and not every soldier comes home to a fresh beginning. Unfortunately, yet realistically, many come home to both physical and mental disabilities such as PTSD and addiction, and alcohol becomes both a friend and an enemy. Why didn’t Budweiser think of the 33% of soldiers who suffer from PTSD and/or depression? Why are they exploiting a single soldier’s homecoming to make money? The commercial has nothing to do with beer. Why couldn’t they just stick to puppies and horses and friendship?