Edited Repost: Facade, and Subsance

| November 11, 2020

Author’s Note:  this is a minor re-write of a previous article posted about 5 ½ years ago.  I thought it was apropos today.




Today is Veteran’s Day.  Well, this is my Veteran’s Day article.

It’s probably somewhat different than the norm.  Maybe you’ll read it and think this is appropriate for today; maybe you’ll think I’m out to lunch.  Or maybe you’ll think I might be both.

Here goes anyway.

. . .

Jonn wrote an article some years back regarding the now commonly-used phrase, “Thank you for your service” – and how it rubs some people the wrong way.  Poetrooper followed up a couple of days later with his own article.  Both made the point that this pop-culture phrase which is popular today beats the heck out of what we saw some decades ago.

I’ve heard that phrase directed towards me a few times.  And what Jonn and Poetrooper say is certainly true; t’s far better than being cursed (or worse), or being treated like a leper, or being treated shabbily in those multitude of other ways those returning from Vietnam had to endure.

But I guess you can count me among the curmudgeonly group.  Having someone tell me that rubs me the wrong way.

I guess it’s because I find being thanked by complete strangers for doing nothing more than what I signed up to do . . . bothersome.  It grates.

I chose to serve.  I knew what I was doing; my eyes were wide open at the time.  Unlike many I was fortunate enough to end my service in fairly good health.

To one extent or another, everyone who served has a variant of this story.  Even those who were draftees had options: evasion, leaving, falsely claiming to be a “conscientious objector”, or outright refusal.  Though many if not most would consider such acts dishonorable, they were still options.

And yet with rare exceptions those who were drafted served. They too answered when the nation called.

Why?  It’s called “doing one’s duty”. 

Being thanked for that by a stranger just strikes me as being out of place.  YMMV.

. . .

Nonetheless, for whatever reason some people apparently have a need to thank vets and/or serving members of the military they barely know for serving.  Its a free country, so I guess they can if they like.

But as far as I’m concerned, here’s how they could better do that.  It doesn’t require saying a word.

Be a productive member of society. Raise your kids to be productive members of society also.

Be honest and trustworthy; pay your debts; have a sense of civic duty, and of honor. Do the best you can to raise your kids to be the same.

Be self-reliant; take care of yourself and your family. Raise your kids to be self-reliant as well.

Help others in need, but in a way that doesn’t make them permanently dependent. Give helping hands – not handouts.  Teach this to your children by example.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: love and respect this nation.  Raise your kids to do the same.  And encourage them to serve the common good – in some capacity, as a civilian or in uniform – for at least a part of their life. Each of us owes this nation that much for the incredible gift of being free citizens.  That freedom alone is worth more than any of us can possibly repay.

If someone does those things . . . well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the best thanks.  It’s far preferable to some halfhearted, mumbled platitude from a stranger.

I’d say doing that is also a fitting tribute to all veterans.  Because I’m convinced that if enough people do those things, the nation our fallen died defending will endure long after we’re all gone.

And that . . . matters.

. . .

Even so:  some people nonetheless apparently still have a burning need to tell veterans, “Thank you for your service”.  So, let me suggest a way that anyone who feels such a need can do so that’s IMO more apropos than offering some vet or serving member of the military they barely know or just met a halfhearted and trite platitude.

More precisely, let me suggest two possible ways.

Option One

Find a local cemetery, preferably one that’s not maintained by a well-funded government, religious, or private entity.  Visit it; find the graves of some vets who are buried there.

In May of each year, set aside a few dollars.  Use that cash to get a few small US flags, and maybe also the same number of small artificial wreaths or bouquets if you can afford it.

On the last Monday in May – or on 11 November, if May isn’t a good option for you – go to that cemetery and look for a veteran’s grave bereft of flag or flowers.

If you find one that’s bare, place a flag and flowers on that grave. Then mentally tell the soul/memory of the man or woman buried there, “Thanks.”  And if so inclined, say a prayer to the Almighty for his or her soul.

If all of the vets’ graves are properly remembered, that’s great.  Keep the flags and/or flowers for the following year.  Or go to a different cemetery and do the above.

Option Two:

On that same last Monday in May – or, alternately, on the 11 November if schedule makes late May a NO GO – go spend some time visiting with an aged vet at a local nursing home or a VA hospital or elder care facility. On that day, he or she will probably be feeling both their years and somewhat down; they’ll likely be reminiscing today about past comrades-in-arms.

Why do this? Because vets now in their twilight years served well before most living today were old enough. You have them to thank for our freedom today. So, yes: doing something like this on Veteran’s Day is an appropriate way to remember all veterans.

It’s also entirely possible they’ve outlived their family.  They just might enjoy some company, particularly if they’re feeling a bit down.

If someone really want to say “thanks” – make doing one of these an annual event.  Get someone else to join in doing the same. Begin a chain, then keep it going.

Doing either those things would also IMO be a fine way to remember our fallen, too.  Because without their efforts and sacrifice – along with the service of those aged vets now in their twilight years – we might not have very much today worth celebrating.

. . .

Just my $0.02 worth, and YMMV.  I’m guessing for some reading this it does.

I’m fine with that.  It’s still a free country.

Anyway, I hope everyone reading this enjoys their holiday today.  But while you’re out and about – or are at your home, or the home of friends or family – please take a moment to remember the reason behind today’s holiday.

Remember: without those willing to serve, America would likely be a far different place today – if it existed at all. Forget that fact, and the future for our descendants might not so nice.

Category: Holidays, Veterans Issues, We Remember, Who knows

Comments (14)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    Spot on, again, Hondo. And yeah, I think most of us feel the same way. I don’t need your empty words…or your free meal. I don’t go around volunteering that I served, but if inquired of, state simply that it was my Honor to serve my Country. And tell them, if they want to Thank me, become the kind of citizen worthy of the sacrifices that were made by so many. I have encouraged people to do what you have suggested for a long time. May want to add, hook up with one of the many groups that put together the “shoe box” care packages. And there is a group of us that do both of your options several times a year.

    We’ll be meeting up at the circa 1809 Churchyard to pay Honors in a bit bit. Our Flag Retirement Ceremony, with the DAR Ladies, got postponed due to the bands of heavy rain from Her-a-cane Eta.

  2. OWB says:

    Well said, Hondo.

    I’ve mostly been in that “makes me uncomfortable, could you just skip it, please” group. With a bit of age that has changed a bit.

    Most of the folks who say it seem to mean it sincerely, so it is appropriate to be gracious about their offer. Maybe it’s a few years of offering a more generous reply that has altered my view of it.

    Don’t really know how it happened, but my response to that “Thanks for your service” platitude is better these days. Still, it makes me uncomfortable mainly because of how-do-you-answer? Even that is getting easier. Often it is just a smile and a nod, maybe, “It was my honor.”

    Thanks for reposting.

    • USAFRetired says:

      I’ve been using “It was my privilege” as a response. It does make me a bit uncomfortable all the same.

      But I do use my 10% discount as a military retiree at Home Depot and Lowes without the least amount of guilt.

  3. ninja says:

    It never bothered the ninja family when Folks told us (and still are) “Thank You For Your Service”.

    Our reply to those who thank us has been and continues to be “Thank You For Supporting Us.”

    Interesting Opinion article from Vice President Mike Pence. Check out what he commented at the end of the article:

    “Vice President Pence: Veterans Day Is A Time To Thank And Appreciate Heroes Who Have Preserved Our Liberty”


    “To my fellow Americans who did not serve in uniform, I have a challenge for you today.”

    “Before the day is out — whether at home or at work, on a street corner, or over a backyard fence — find a veteran. Whether he or she came home in the last week or in the last century, extend your hand and say those words that veterans never ask to hear but they deserve to hear every day. Find a veteran today and say: “Thank you for your service.” Because they deserve to hear it every day.”

    “God bless our veterans and their families.”

    • OWB says:

      Glad you can enjoy hearing the words. Your ability to do so may make up for the discomfort some of us feel about it. You see, we who are older will forever have our reaction to those words tainted by our memories of how it was in the 60’s and 70’s.

      Even after Desert Storm, it was difficult for me to admit publicly that I was a vet. Too many bad memories of the riots, “pacifists,” and other unpleasantries from earlier years.

      Yes, it is rather weird to see in the span of a single lifetime the honor bestowed on vets of WWII and Korea morph into the horrid things done to vets of Vietnam. Funny, the rest of us learned very quickly to hide, and sometimes even lie about, our military connections.

      And now we are expected to forget all that? It’s not going to happen. The last time I was personally spat upon was in 2004. That memory will never go away, although I can now react with less visible suspicion than I once could.

      So, very glad you younger folks do not have to carry that baggage. Keep telling us that we are appreciated. We need to hear it even when we don’t quite know just how to respond to it.

  4. Telephone Colonel says:

    I had just stepped in the Waffle House not far from Gate 3 of Ft. Jackson early one morning to get a cup of coffee after a before-dawn casualty notification call. A poorly dressed man shuffled up to me in my dress greens and said, “Thank you for your service.” Before I could reply he followed that up with “can I have five dollars?”
    I guess you have to pay for the compliment in some cases.

  5. Thunderstixx says:

    I was standing next to a Veteran that served about the same time I did. Someone thanked him for his service and he came back with, what I consider the perfect response, “It was an honor and a privilege to serve”.
    Every morning I wake up in this big beautiful house in Kyle Texas and think about how truly grateful I am to be a Veteran and be qualified to have earned the things I earned.
    It never ceases to amaze me that my name is listed in the same book with people that have earned the title of Veteran with deeds under incredible stress
    in forgotten places and go quietly about their business without demanding attention for the sacrifices they have made.
    Good article Hondo.

  6. Sparks says:

    “I guess it’s because I find being thanked by complete strangers for doing nothing more than what I signed up to do…”

    Thank you and well said Hondo. Today, as each year, I will go to the local Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and to the local Veteran’s Cemetary to remember those I loved and lost.

  7. David says:

    Word of warning, if the rest of the country is like yhe local homes, they aren’t accepting visitors.

  8. Ex-PH2 says:

    I never bring it up. Too many SV shysters have made me wary of that. No baseballs caps – they get in the way of my camera – and no sweatshirts with slogans.

    Yes, I still have my dogtags on my keychain, but that’s in case of an accident and not being able to speak for myself.

    It’s Veteran’s Day. Put a flag on a stick at a cemetery, or a small bouquet in a vase, on a veteran’s headstone, and say a few kind words. That should do it.

  9. Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:

    Not knowing anything about the people saying “thank you for your service”, I just say graciously, “you’re welcome”, and continue on.

  10. Flakpup says:

    They say, “Thanks for your service!”

    I say, “Thanks for paying your taxes!” (which paid for my paycheck/training in the military and allowed me the opportunity to serve).

    Mostly it gets a chuckle back. But, if they cheated on their taxes… then maybe it’ll make them feel a little ashamed.

  11. Roh-Dog says:

    “You’re welcome” and/or “It was my pleasure, if there’s time to make someone laugh, “Anytime my country needs me, except for April 15th!”
    Great read. Thank you.

  12. Steve 1371 says:

    I went to the ceremony that the VFW put on at the memorial park in Springfield Vt. today. It was sparsely attended unlike previous years but was well done . I too am unsure of how to respond to the thank you thing. I am glad I served and proud of my service for the most part. No thank you required , just hold the spit and insults.