Let me preface this by saying that I DO NOT speak for all Veterans. Just like civilians we are all individuals with different likes, dislikes, thoughts, and feelings. While I don’t speak for all of my fellow Vets, I can say that the vast majority of those I served with or have since met that also served in combat, agree with what I’m about to type out.
- We aren’t the heroes. Many of us who served in combat, myself included, lost friends. We lost brothers, our fellow soldiers. The man on our left or right that we were supposed to help keep alive so we could all come home together. We aren’t heroes. The truth, most of us are weighed down by Survivor’s Guilt. The real heroes didn’t make it back.
- We, as Veterans, don’t feel we did anything to be thanked for. We were/are just doing our jobs. A job we signed up for knowing full well the risks involved. No one joins the military today not knowing full well that you may be deployed for extended periods of time. That you’re going to miss holidays and family events. That you might spend a few years watching your kids grow through pictures, and YouTube videos.
- This one might seem rude, but I promise it’s not meant to be. As a civilian, you really have no idea what you’re thanking me for. You didn’t serve, even in peacetime you would have some idea as to what life is like in the military. It is a completely different world from civilian life in America. How can you thank someone for going through/doing something you can’t possibly understand? This isn’t a knock on those of you reading who haven’t served. It’s not for everyone, and personally I think it takes just as much to admit you can’t do something as it does to stand up and do it.
- I’ve heard this one from many Veterans I’ve talked to over the years. Many have said to me that being thanked for their service brings up thoughts and memories that are very hard for them. Many Veterans, myself included, would like to forget a great deal of what we saw and experienced while we served in combat. For some this causes a great deal of stress both physically and emotionally. Like I said, we are all individuals, we just share a common path. We are all affected by that path differently, and some memories really are better left in the past never relived.
- Lastly, much like the last one, this isn’t meant to be rude, but I don’t know how to sugar coat things, so here we go. We didn’t serve for you. We didn’t deploy for you, we didn’t spend holidays in shit hole desert countries for you. Nearly every Veteran serves for their own family. For many of us, we feel called to serve our country, to fight the enemy on their own land so we aren’t fighting them on the streets of the US. Many also serve in the vain hope that our children won’t have to fight. Thus far every generation has failed at this endeavor, but we march on.
So there you have it, the five reasons why I, as a Veteran, feel that I don’t need to be thanked for my service. I’m never rude about it, or react negatively in any way when I’m thanked. Most times I just say thank you back. But every time someone thanks me, I think to myself “why is he/she thanking me? I didn’t do anything special. I just did my job, and I was lucky enough to make it home, and not die.”
The best way to thank us is to life your life to the fullest. To spend it chasing your own American Dream. To allow everyone else to chase theirs. Freedom is a two way street, if you want to live your life a certain way, you must be willing to let someone else live their life in a way you would never consider. Enjoy the freedom that has been earned with the blood, sweat, and tears of nearly 250 years of patriots from the Revolutionary War to the men and women serving all over the world today. Enjoy your freedom and liberty, and let those around you enjoy theirs as well. THAT is the best way to show Veterans that their service, and the lives of our friends who didn’t come home weren’t wasted. That we really did serve something greater than ourselves.
I can’t think of a better thank you for a Veteran than that.
-The Mid Merican