Thank You For Your Service

Last night’s post on servers and service was actually inspired by this post from Doctrine Man over at The Pendulum.

“Thank you for your service.”

I paused momentarily at the words, and looked up from my lunch to see who was speaking. An elderly woman was reaching out to put her hand on the arm of an Army captain, with a look of sincere gratitude in her eyes. It’s a scene that plays out in every airport across the country as a thankful public expresses their appreciation to members of our Armed Forces.

It happens to us all at one time or another. For me, it tends to be a humbling experience, maybe even a little uncomfortable. This is my chosen profession, and I’ve never felt a need to be thanked for my decision. But I also recognize that for many, they need to express their gratitude for the sacrifices we make, for what we give of ourselves for our Nation. So, when I’m approached, I stop what I’m doing and take a moment to acknowledge their thanks and remind them that I also appreciate what they do to support our forces and how much it means to all of us. Courtesy is a two-way street.

Do go read the whole thing, as it is a tale of appalling behavior by not just a serviceman, but a commissioned officer, a chaplain no less!

As JoshO commented on last night’s post:

wasn’t there one of these a couple years back where the waitress made a big stink online about getting stiffed on the tip and it all turned out to be bullshit? Here’s hoping that this is something similar…

Unfortunately, DM’s post shows it is all too plausible.

Generally, when someone thanks me for my service, I reply that it was my privilege. And it was. Military service may sometimes be an obligation in America, but it is not a right. That I was fortunate enough to enlist and serve is a blessing that many will never enjoy.

What thanks does my nation owe me? Well, they paid me on the 1st and 15th of every month, provided me with housing and food, health care and dental care. The nation has granted me certain benefits through the VA and the GI Bill.

What thanks does the citizenry owe me?

None.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t appreciate when citizens take the time to either thank me personally, or veterans in general.

And I’ll certainly admit that on Veteran’s Day, when Applebee’s offers me a free meal, I gladly take them up on their offer (and I most assuredly tip the waitstaff, generally about what the meal would have cost me normally).

And there’s nothing wrong with asking if an establishment offers a discount to veterans or servicemembers.

What is wrong is thinking an establishment should offer a discount or any other preference to veterans and servicemembers.

Our troops are asked to endure a wide range of hardships, from the obvious, like going into battle and risking injury or death, to the more mundane things in garrison life that are annoying and that no civilian employer could ever dream of enforcing.

That unfortunately leads some servicemembers to think that they are special. That they are “the true 1%’ers” gives them some special place in society.

But most of us recognize the key word is “service.”  Merriam-Webster provides quite a few meanings for the word, but the one most applicable to veterans is this:

contribution to the welfare of others

We would all do well to occasionally remind ourselves that we served to support the nation, not that the nation served to support us.

8 thoughts on “Thank You For Your Service”

    1. Hm.

      You managed to spell “sailor” without getting a single letter correct.

      That’s about what I’d expect from a filthy, dirty leg …

  1. I’ve read enough comments from vets to understand many of them feel uncomfortable being thanked. I also know these thanks are a fairly recent phenomenon.

    From the stories it would seem a larger proportion of the thankers are older folks, and I expect they’re trying to make up for how the Vietnam vets were treated when they got home. A few of them might have even personally mistreated a returning vet in an airport back in the day, and now regret it.

    1. Spot-on. A lot of guilt. For either mistreating or simply shunning those coming home from Southeast Asia. Then there are those who sincerely mean it. Older Veterans that have that look in the eye. Eyes that have seen.

      But yes, there is a level of discomfort. Hard to get across that it was my honor to serve.

  2. Finally got a chance to read the DM piece. Brilliant. The clang of the shutting trap around that a**wipe would have been worth beers for the house.

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