A star for every veteran

Early yesterday I posted “Thank a veteran today.” Then last night I came across an article on NBC News entitled “Your ‘thank you’ to veterans is welcomed, but not always comfortably received.

It seems not all veterans enjoy being told “Thank you for your service.” Some feel uncomfortable because they think they don’t deserve it, or are embarrassed by it, or simply don’t know how to respond. Some prefer not to be singled out from the general population around them. And some think it’s just a perfunctory greeting that means nothing to the person who said it.

I went on to find several other articles and forums dealing with the same topic and was surprised to read all the different views on why someone in or formerly in the military might feel less than pleased about being thanked. Not deserving, just doing their job, never saw combat, etc. The reasons were as varied as the individuals who expressed them.

If you are one of those individuals, I assure you my gratitude was not just a knee-jerk, perfunctory greeting. I appreciate that you and your loved ones sacrificed time, money, physical well-being, and any number of other things to serve our country and guarantee my safety and freedom. My dad served in the Medical Corps during WWII. Stateside, but in an Army hospital nonetheless. My older brother served in the Air Force during the Cold War, flying B-47s on round-the-clock missions to ensure we had defensive and retaliatory capability in the air at all times. During Vietnam, I had no family in the service but we worked to support the troops fighting that very unpopular war.

There were a lot of suggestions from veterans about other ways to thank them. Many said a simple nod and a smile would suffice. Hard to do that on the Internet, but then, veterans don’t have to acknowledge Internet postings. Others suggested “Welcome home” was a better acknowledgment, but that seems appropriate only for someone who has just recently come home. Still, all this has caused me to rethink “thank you for your service” and in the future I’ll try to remember that it might not be received as I intend.

I came across this comment from Leepatrizzi:

A woman noticed my Wounded Warrior T-shirt and after a short conversation gave me two business cards reading “I am part of our American Flag that flew over a home in Florida. I can no longer fly. In the sun & the wind, I have been tattered & torn, but not forgotten. You ARE NOT forgotten. Please carry me as a reminder.”  She gave me these for my brother and nephew who served our country.
These business cards were in a mini ziploc with the beautiful embroidered star of an American flag in it also. I have since been making this little ziploc package to give to every Veteran I come across.  I will continue to make and give these as a way of showing my appreciation to our service members, thanks to the wonderful woman who gave them to me.

What a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, here on the Internet, I can only hand out virtual stars. If you are a veteran, please accept one with my gratitude.

11 thoughts on “A star for every veteran

  1. My FIL & my father both served in the military and neither one of them ever like/liked to be acknowledged for doing said. The whole experience was too awful for them. They didn’t want to be reminded of it. I suggest that as another explanation of why some military members are uncomfortable with a “thank you.”

  2. As a naval officer on active duty during Vietnam and the Cold War, 1959 to 1981, I can confess that thanks make me a little uncomfortable as well. Maybe it’s because in all that time I never got depth-charged or shot at. There’s a big difference between being a Marine in hand-to-hand combat with the Taliban and patrolling the deeps away from home for 6 months at a time. In both cases, patriotism and pride of country are likely part of the career choice, but it is unit pride and love of the profession that keeps a military career going through the hardships.

    The Armed Forces of the United States are composed of a vast bureaucratic structure, and by one estimate I just found on a career counseling site,

    “about 91 percent of today’s enlisted military jobs are non-combat. Such positions support the fighting forces, aid in disaster relief, construct infrastructure, provide medical care and legal help and much more. Essentially, any job you can find in a major city, you can find in the U.S. Military.”

    The nature of war, and hence of the armed forces, has been steadily changing since World War II. It has become more technological and less manual. The stresses have become less physical and more mental, as in family separation and hazards like PTSD (which, despite naysayers, is quite real). And finally, compensation in pay and benefits has improved immensely and surpasses that for civilian occupations, particularly in the benefit categories of retirement and medical care. I suspect many of these factors account for the attitudes you discuss, PT.

    Rachel Maddow’s book, “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power” describes remarkably well for a civilian author many of these factors of change in the military profession, including its steady evolution from one of citizen sacrifice to an all-volunteer profession of multi-talented, highly-trained professionals culturally segregated from the other 98% of the population. Her take on the changing nature of the “Abrams Doctrine” is particularly insightful.

    1. I’d have guessed we had an increasing percent of military jobs in support rather than combat, but 91% is quite a surprise. If technology means putting fewer people in harm’s way, that’s a good thing. Now we just need to get that other 9% out of harm’s way.

  3. I think “thank you for your service” merely is a nice thing to say, and it seeks no commitment from the recipient to accept it or not. Sometimes, we need to lighten up a bit. Let’s not turn well-intentioned niceties into psych studies.

    My and my wife’s families are full of vets, and quite a few saw serious combat. Not a one would be offended by someone thanking them for serving for their country.

  4. We live in an area where there are lots of returning/deployed combat vets. When a whole group of them come off a plane, it’s not unusual for people to just start clapping – usually started by a gray haired man. The guys grin in response. The USO is also really active and often has signs up and welcome groups.
    I’ve found the ones traveling individually seem to prefer some space.
    Other road warriors I’ve talked with say sometimes if they are in line with soldiers in uniform behind them, they will prepay for coffee and snacks and not say anything directly. Same deal if you spot them seated in restaurants.
    Smiles, though, are always welcomed.
    (Was your dad stationed in San Antonio area? My father-in-law, a doctor, was there for a while before shipped to the Pacific)

    1. What a nice gesture, paying for a soldier’s coffee, snacks, etc. Sounds like something my dad and brothers would have done.

      My dad was stationed in Carlisle Barracks, PA. He was in charge of setting up the hospital there. Guess they figured it didn’t make sense to send an ob/gyn to the front.

      1. Dad was there very briefly ( med tech) before shipping out – seems like all the med people knew each other at one point or another
        I hesitate to approach military with thanks now – some of them get this panic look in their eyes if you make eye contact. There are many reasons – and that’s ok – so I try to smile briefly unthreateningly – they seem to get it.
        But you just want to do more – we are grateful.

... and that's my two cents