Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

Please Think Carefully Before Thanking Our Veterans

Thinking about thanking our veterans? Stop. Don’t be so hasty. Let me give you something to think about before you walk up to that service member.

As a veteran, I know the satisfaction that comes when you take time to say, “Thank you for your service.” I understand your intention, and I appreciate the sentiment. But I have one recommendation:

Think carefully before thanking our veterans.

This small offering of gratitude, I assume, is meant to extol the virtue of those few who keep America free. You want to acknowledge hardship and sacrifice–the cost of joining a band of brothers, a fraternity of men and women dedicated to preserving the ideals that once made, and continue to keep America strong.

But if you want to infuse your thanksgiving with meaning beyond the casual courtesy, please, don’t thank me. Or him. Or her.

In some ways, being a service member is easy. You do what you are told. You cannot refuse, under penalty of confinement. You are under contract. After the first choice, you have no choice, at least, for a time. And should you perish in the flames of a bankrupt ideology, your troubles are over.

Sometimes, a lifestyle born of patriotism suffers the slow death of disillusionment. The pessimist mutinies, languishing in the ranks with bitterness reserved only for his enemy and his recruiter.

You thank them, the ones who live and breathe and die by the way of the warrior. And you thank those who are counting the days-and-a-wakeup until their end of active service, those who pray you picture them in their Dress Blues and not in the cab-ride home, the few, no, the many of us who, despite our successes, know we have failed at times, and are ashamed.

I understand why you thank them. Those men and women are still honorable. They still serve.

But there are others who serve, and they desperately need to be thanked.

They are the ones who stay behind, the ones who love and support us. When our trouble is over, they are the ones whose trouble has just begun.

It’s she who is innocent, yet unfaithful, sharing passionate screams with the nightmares that take her to bed. It’s the little ones sleeping on salted pillows and taking too long to remember his face. They are the ones who pray for our safe return.

Next time you see a veteran, don’t thank them.

Thank his wife. Thank her husband. Kneel down and thank their children.

They didn’t sign up.

They are under no obligation.

And still they choose to stay.

Pat Conroy writes in his autobiographical work The Death of Santini:

“The Conroy children were all casualties of war, conscripts in a battle we didn’t sign up for on the bloodied envelope of our birth certificates.”1

And Steven Pressfield’s now-legendary Gates of Fire reveals that the Spartans chose the 300 who perished at Thermopylae not by the strength of their men, but of their women.

Next time, don’t just thank our veterans.

Thank the people who battle every day to preserve the single, frayed thread holding their families together.

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1 Pat Conroy, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son (New York: Doubleday, 2013), 11.

Photo Credit: LCpl Jacob Barber / PD

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About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

12 Replies

  1. Point well written and well taken, Jason. My thanks to you and to your wife and children as well for your service and their sacrifices and service as they send you off time and time again and hold down the fort at home. God bless you all.

  2. Adam Johns

    great post, will share it with my bride. This line, however stumped me, “It’s she who is innocent, yet unfaithful, sharing passionate screams with the nightmares that take her to bed.”

    I’m wondering if you meant, “faithful” vs. “unfaithful.”

    1. SLCSteph

      Yeah I didn’t really understand that part either. I guess filled with doubt and fear instead of being faithful to the cause?

    2. She’s cheating on him with nightmares, the ones that now replace him in her bed. Thanks for reading!

      1. Adam Johns

        Thanks for the clarification. Though I’m not sure most women would agree with using faithfulness or cheating as the appropriate analogy, unless those accusations are made specifically about their emotions betraying them – since a woman’s faithfulness to her husband is quite sacred.

  3. Geeta

    Beautifully written.

  4. Dejah

    File this under “War is Hell on the Homefront Too.”

    –Dejah
    Milspouse, ret

  5. Pete Burokas

    Your words hit home when I think of what my wife had to endure when I returned to the states. Thank you for a great posting

    1. thanks for reading, Pete.

  6. Jay LeBorgne

    The thanks come from citizens of a grateful nation, a nation of people who understand freedom and its price. Very few people can identify a family member of a military service member…the uniform is a sign. The veteran often wears something as a sign of his or her service. It could be a ball cap, a jacket, at tattoo or a prosthetic limb. They may often be found in a group at an event or organization gathering. Sometimes, people can see a service member or veteran just by the way they carry themselves above all others. To often, the badges of family members are worn in private, in silence, away from the crowd.

    1. I agree, Jay. I think more veterans need to tell their stories. Maybe I’ll help them with that one day.