A Response to “Thank You for Your Service”
Marine Veteran Shares Perspective on Veterans Day
Twelve years ago I was a 20-year-old Marine serving with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 4th Marines, in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. We were grunts – infantrymen. We were all volunteers, doing exactly what we signed up to do. So, naturally, we complained constantly. After all, a Marine isn’t happy unless he’s complaining about something.
One of the gripes we had was something like, “America is not at war. The military is at war! America is at the mall.”
For us Marines, our high school friends were in college, going to football games, partying and going home for the holidays. We were working 20-hour days, clearing through cities, standing post and patrolling the streets all while hoping not to get shot or blown up in the process.
There was such a disconnect between the two worlds.
This Veteran’s Day weekend, as I reflected on my service and the service of others, I realized that our complaint of being at war while the rest of the country went on with life, as usual, wasn’t wrong.
That’s the whole point of service.
For 243 years United States service members have taken the fight to those that would do our country harm. It reminded me of the old adage, “I sleep soundly in my bed at night knowing that rough men stand ready to do violence on my behalf.”
Now, I’m 32-years-old and married with two young kids. I’ve got a nice home, a dog and a fulfilling career. This weekend I got a haircut, shared war stories with other vets over drinks, went to the grocery store and played in the leaves with my 4-year-old.
I did all of that without the fear of my street exploding, getting caught in a crossfire or having my daughters kidnapped.
As I reflected more, I thought about a question I’m often asked – what made you join the Marine Corps?
The answer is multifaceted, but a big part of my decision was simply that I could. I was physically capable, smart, and blessed with comforts and opportunities. So, I thought, if I could, I should. If not me, then who? That mentality is pervasive throughout all branches and generations.
I’ve had the “why did you join” conversation with many other vets over the years, and it inevitably comes back to the fact that this a country worth serving.
This brings me to the “thank you for your service” sentiment. To be honest, it’s an awkward statement to receive.
Sometimes it feels like it’s an automatic response to finding out that someone is a veteran, like saying bless you to someone who sneezes. What do I say in response – you’re welcome? Thank you for thanking me? I do believe that it’s a genuine sentiment for most people, so I’ve taken to responding with my reason for joining – “it’s a country worth serving.”
Now, I understand not everybody can or should serve in a military capacity. That doesn’t mean you’ve shirked your patriotic duty to serve this country. But ask yourself, “How am I uniquely capable and qualified to serve?” What skills, experiences, knowledge or assets do you have? How can you apply your skills to support the betterment of this country? Are you giving without keeping score, or are you expecting something in return? Are we as a society living up to the promises and ideals that folks like me fought for? If not, how can you work to fix that?
We’ve all been given so much, by so many, for so long. We will continue to live in peace and prosperity as long as young men and women stand up and say “I can, therefore I will.”
So, if you truly want to thank veterans for their service, I invite you to consider how you’re doing your part to make this a country worth serving.
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