Nov 18

I’ll never forget the day in High School after some big to-do about Martin Luther King (it was February, Black History Month) when I was in line for my lunch being stared at by a blonde haired girl who looked like she wanted to cry. Without warning this girl started asking me what I wanted for lunch and loading my tray up with items that I could have gotten myself, making me feel weird and uncomfortable along with the confusion that flooded my mind. I didn’t know this girl but I thought about it later (after politely telling her to leave me alone and putting back the items) and I realized that I was her chosen charity case due to the white guilt that comes along with tales of slavery, Jim Crow laws and lynching.

Now I am not a veteran nor have I served in the United States Military but I can imagine that the insincere “thank you”, the offering up of First Class seats on flights and the forced handshakes that result from Veterans Day has to be some of the most uncomfortable encounters that anyone can ask for. It has to feel similar to the way I felt with the reactionary girl who filled my tray with food that I never asked for. Sure a few people eat this up but I would be willing to bet that most would rather be left alone.

There is a right and a wrong way to show gratitude (if you truly are showing gratitude) and then there’s the reactionary nudge to just do something to let the world (and karma) know that you aren’t a bad person. As passionate about this as I am I could never see myself walking up to a Vet and shaking his hand to thank him for his service. I don’t know what he has been through, what he has done or what wars he was involved in. The only thing I know is what has been shown to me, what I’ve read and accounts from friends and family who served. Just because a commercial on television tells me to do it doesn’t make it anymore weird and invasive than it really is.

To be honest, we are quick to dole out empty gestures in order to satisfy our own selfish need to feel like a good person… it has nothing to do with the vets.

If you are truly grateful for the volunteers of that dangerous job which is the military, and want to help those who have come out the worst for wear for doing so, then silently donate to the organizations that have been built to give aid to those who need it. Choose one:

If you don’t want to donate then gratitude can be shown by refusing to contribute to conversations that either paint war lightly or pushes an ignorant, hurtful opinion about people that serve. Hire a veteran that meets the criteria of your job and speak out about discrimination against them if you’re unlucky enough to witness it. These subtle gestures go a long way as opposed to running up to a stranger and shaking her hand because you watched Platoon on Veteran’s Day.

I have never been a fan of the Sports Fanatic style of bandwagon when it comes to anything, as it never feels sincere outside of a gut reaction. Empty thank yous, handshakes and gifts make people uncomfortable and rarely helps. So the next time Veterans day rolls around and you feel guilted into doing something, please do something that counts outside of making people feel uncomfortable in order to make your soul feel righteous.

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  • Ok Greg… as a veteran (pre war).. I beg to differ.. just a little bit. Some people look at military service as a sacrifice for the country. Peace time or war time. In actuality.. for most, it’s my belief, that military service is -just another job….or means to an end. Benefits, education, etc. Good man or woman! Makes me wanna move to San Diego or Norfolk to find a good man! During war time, I cannot speak for these guys but I would venture a guess that they do want to be shown appreciation -just for serving on behalf of this ungrateful nation of haters, moaners, whiners, etc. Now.. I am the first one to say.. when someone disses me about what pissed me off in public… “We have plenty of guys dying in Iraq & Afghanistan for my right to bitch and moan.” I truly believe that. Cause if I don’t, who will? And it’s so true. There are a select few who serve out of sheer patriotism to this blah country. Like that football guy Tillman? There was no other reason for him to sign up than his own personal sense of loyalty and patriotism. Then there’s this former Marine I know of who reenlisted into the Army no less! Because they offered him a sign on bonus! He’s not in the middle east this time around, but.. in the midwest. LOL. You should see the FB shares & emails of Veterans day goodies that Vets pass around. I mean.. eat here/shop here for free or half price! They love it! Active duty people don’t get paid a lot of money to wear an ugly uniform and salute assholes, and adhere to antiquated regs and rituals of whatever branch they’re in.. I’m just sayin’… it doesn’t hurt to s how some love. And military folk will take the love if they can’t get the cash.

    If I happen to mention that I was in the Navy… loong before women were flying and serving on battle ready vessels in enemy operations & campaigns.. I still get thank yous. And sorta like it. Disingenuous? Maybe. But I think the proliferation of media coverage about the disparaging financial and emotional compensation of todays service men and women… a “thanks” can mean a lot. Really. Hope this helps! Luv ya!!!

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