Dude, what’s with the unrestrained adulation heaped upon veterans? They enrolled in a job voluntarily. That job happens to be risky and comes with benefits that must make it worthwhile. End of discussion, right? Wrong; we elevate them to the status of heroes. Why??

There is another profession called saturation diving. That job involves descending thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, staying there for weeks in the underwater analogue of a space station, and working on oil rigs or other mega contraptions way down under in treacherous seabed conditions. The profession involves rigorous training and inflicts high rates of neurological disorders and psychological trauma on its practitioners. Fatal accidents are common; the divorce rate among practitioners is high. Yet, without this profession, we on land wouldn’t have many of the luxuries and freedoms we take for granted, namely everything that stems from our use of oil. There’s no national holiday for their fallen; no one thanks them for their service; they’re not guests of honor at SOTU addresses. And my guess is that they are perfectly fine with that. Thrilled, even! Why? Because they make $500,000 per year, and that compensates them for the risks.

Here’s my theory: The reason we go out of our way to celebrate the military is that we don’t want to pay them as much as they deserve for the risk they are taking. If we did pay them the market rate for assuming that kind of potential harm, the federal military budget would quickly spiral out of control and we’d go broke as a nation. So, instead, we say how valiant they are, what gratitude the nation has for their service, what transcendent nobility their profession bestows upon them and their entire families. And we get away with paying them a pittance. Do you want to really honor the military? Ditch the Triple-A discounts and lose the medals of honor. Just make their starting salary even a tenth of what saturation divers make.