… “Thank You For Your Service”.
For those who have served, it seems we hear these words a lot more often than in decades past. For those currently serving, recently (honorably) discharged, or recently retired, these words are more familiar, something often said since at least the first Gulf War.
There was a time, some thirty years ago, or longer, these words were not heard at all. Instead, often times if a civilian happened to notice you were in the military, you would have been greeted with words of another sort. “Baby killer”, “Imperialist”, “War Monger”, are just a few which come to mind. There were others.
The more nuanced response, perhaps from “friends”, family members, or other acquaintances, would evolve into a “discussion” centering around “Why”. “Why would someone of your character, intelligence, talents, chose to embrace (for however long a time) military service?” “Were you not aware of all the other educational opportunities available (to someone like you)?” Or (particularly if it was currently, a Republican administration in the White House), “How can you serve under such a ‘regime’?” As if the President was specifically ordering me (or your fellow military member) to commit some heinous crime in his name.
To be clear, we are not talking about those who had honest questions. (What is it like on a ship at sea? What is the training like? Can an Officer really make you do anything, if he gives you an order to do so?) There are many aspects of life in the military which those who haven’t served would not have any real idea what it was like… or perhaps would base their assumptions on what they have seen on a tv show or movie. So legitimate questions were never a concern, and not what I am trying to address here.
So, forgive this ol’ retired Sailor, if I find at least some of those who offer a “Thank you for your service”, to perhaps being a bit disingenuous. From the various media talking heads, political figures and bureaucrats, right on down to some of those folks in our respective villages, cities, and towns. Would they be saying this at all, if it wasn’t the “politically correct” thing to do?
After all, most of these folks would see the military shrunk to little or nothing, if they had any direct choice in the matter. They would have no problem with voting in individuals who have little or no respect to that which all members of the military repeatedly swear an oath of allegiance to…the Constitution of the United States. And how many are, in their heart of hearts, of a like mind to that expressed in Kipling’s little ditty?
Indeed, the current administration, even while sending troops hither and yon, has exhibited little more than contempt for the health and welfare of those currently serving, let alone for those who have honorably gone before.
I guess I am still a little gun shy when a “Thank you for your service.” is sent in my direction. Don’t know if I blush anymore when hearing it, but it still gives one pause. Hell, I was just doing my job (hopefully, to the best of my ability). Wasn’t really expecting any thanks. Just the chance, when the time came, to be allowed to assimilate back into (the civilian) society, and have that which was promised (by the government) upon honorable completion of service, delivered.
If you really want to thank a vet…donate time to any of the many charitable organizations out there. Failing that, send em a buck or two, so they can continue to do the fine work they do, for those who have served or are currently serving. (The USO, Wounded Warrior Project, Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society, just to name a few.) This is the kind of thing which really says thank you…thank you for your service.
Finally, to those I have served with, and those whose paths have crossed with mine via the internet, that have…or are serving…hope today, Veteran’s Day, was one in which you were able to spend time remembering shipmates, brothers-in-arms, fellow aircrew, along with friends and family members who have worn the uniform. And if possible, have let them know they are not forgotten.