This morning, as I drove over to my nephew’s house to care for his dog, my mind wandered to the phrase often spoken by civilians to military veterans, “Thank you for your service”. This phrase was never uttered to me when I returned from Vietnam. I wasn’t derided, but my service went unnoticed. In hearing other veterans recount their experiences returning from the War, few were greeted with gratitude and kindness. On the contrary, many were scorned and ridiculed for only performing their “military obligation”, which was the legal requirement of young men in that era.
It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I started to notice a change in the attitude towards veterans, for the positive. Now, the phrase “thank you for your service” is almost common. In fact, I often hear it on the sports talk radio I listen to, whenever a caller identifies himself as a veteran. I put myself in that person’s shoes and recall times when people have said that to me and I feel uncomfortable. I don’t feel as though I did anything special or deserving of gratitude. Granted, I wasn’t drafted; I enlisted, but I did so knowing full well that I would eventually be required to serve. So, perhaps “thank you for your service” has a stronger meaning for those who have grown up in a time when the draft does not exist. For me, the phrase is something I still have to get used to.