I recently came across an article on Recoil, a site I visit daily for gun and shooting news. I saw this article by Candice Horner, titled “Stop Thanking Veterans”. I was taken aback and then I had to think about it.
I took the weekend and reflected on Ms. Horner’s article. I am not sure what her motivation or intention was for this article. Personally, I found it a offensive. Not because I served, that honor belongs to my grandfather (Earl), my father-in-law (Lee), grandad (Gordon), my father (Kerry), and my brother (David). I grew up Army Brat. I didn’t see or hear everything that happened to the soldiers. I heard enough. There was always talk about what happened on base or to someone’s father or sibling when deployed. I remember when Desert Storm ended and all the soldiers returning were bussed back to base. It was a huge party in the PX parking lot! I had friends returning to their families or the barracks. I remember the elation when a husband or wife stepped off the bus, I remember my own fathers relief when he returned to normal duty after the 7/12’s he pulled in the mail room for his Unit while everyone was deployed.
To me, and I think for many Americans who for their own reasons didn’t or couldn’t serve; the only thing we can say is “Thank You”. Not because we are ungrateful or superficial. It is because there is NOTHING we can say that would properly express our gratitude for those men and women who wear (or have worn) a military uniform.
I have no other words. I know no other way to express the gratitude that is rooted deep in my soul.
I have enough friends today that are prior service, some served a shorter stint and some served 20 or more years. We talk about their service when they want to or if I have a specific question and they are willing to answer it. I never ask about their MOS or if they got deployed, that doesn’t matter to me! Anyone of them could have ended up in a situation where they had to fight. Before the Desert Storm deployment, my grandmother (dad’s side) spent the money to call Germany and ask if my dad was going to be deployed. I remember her being upset about it. After my parents got off the phone we had a conversation, I don’t remember if it was all of us kids or just me. My mom simply said, when Dad joined the Army he accepted that if war came it was likely he could be deployed; whether in his MOS or as infantry. It was matter of fact no B.S. … it could happen.
Now, I learned from my dad to show respect where (and when) respect is due. Today, when I see a soldier or airman and I can do it discreetly I will say “Thank You” and extend my hand to shake theirs. Sometimes we chat and sometimes I get a humble thank you. Once with my boys in our local Walmart, I came across a Vietnam Vet (he was wearing a black ball cap) in a wheel-chair and his wife. As I passed them, I stopped to say thank you, at first he didn’t understand and his wife, who choked up a bit, leaned over and said, “he says thanks”. He grinned and it warmed my heart and I teared up a bit. My boys asked what happened and if I knew that man. I explained that he is a hero and a man who deserves our respect.
Now, I don’t know how Ms. Horner can feel that “The standard phrase that so many people use to express thanks is inadequate; it’s empty.” Those I get a chance to speak with have not yet expressed this sentiment. I can’t count how many Veterans and Active Duty service men and women I have thanked; I never counted, because what mattered to me is that they knew I appreciate them.
Today, I try to find ways to serve. I have donated to charities and done a few other things. We can serve our Vets through various methods; including charities or better yet, get personally involved and volunteer!