What is your reaction (if any) when you see someone say to a military man, “Thank you for your service.” You probably don’t think of it in terms of how “fashionable” it is, but I don’t recall it being said with such ubiquity (if at all) a decade ago. Certainly no one ever thanked me for my service in the early 1960s and, if they had, it would’ve made me feel awkward….not so much because I was drafted and served during a period “between wars” (a stranger seeing me in uniform wouldn’t know that), but because even if I had been in combat, why should I be thanked for surviving a situation which I had no choice being put in?

These thoughts were brought to the forefront for me by a New York Times article last week by Matt Richtel in which he related being told “No problem” after thanking a veteran for his service….but the vet’s expression/reaction said there was a problem. It seems that not all vets appreciate what one on them calls the “thank you for your service phenomenon.” For them, “the thanks come across as shallow, disconnected, a reflective offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there….and who never would have gone themselves or sent their own sons and daughters.”

“To these vets, thanking soldiers for their service symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at great distance — physically, spiritually, economically. It raises questions of the meaning of patriotism, shared purpose and, pointedly, what you’re supposed to say to those who put their lives on the line and are uncomfortable about being thanked for it.”

I suppose that’s why I can’t help being a bit cynical when I see politicians saying “Thank you for your service” to a man or woman in uniform. Unless you’ve walked the walk (like, for example, former Vietnamese POW, Senator John McCain), what authority does one have to talk the talk? Wouldn’t it seem less smarmy if a political office holder (who humbly wants to thank a vet) said something like, “If I may speak on behalf of the people of my state/district, I want to thank you for your service.”

Perhaps that kind of “meaning well” would help make it less of a problem….if not “No problem.”





9 comments on “NO PROBLEM?

  1. arekhill1 says:

    Here in San Diego, it’s the land of “Thank you for your service.” The PA guy says it at baseball games. Like all public platitudes and pieties, I ignore it, because I’m an anti-social jerk. But, hey, everybody’s got to be something.


  2. mistermuse says:

    That’s exactly how I see it, Ricardo – as a public piety. I suppose the argument could be made that such pieties are the best we can come up with (not unlike saying “Sorry for your loss” at a funeral), and doesn’t mean they’re insincere….to which I say sincerity is important but not sufficient. Some of the biggest demagogues in history have been sincere.


  3. Don Frankel says:

    Gratuitous would be the best way to describe. “Thank you for your service.” But that would be too kind. I think we live in an age of unbridled narcissism and the speaker in these situations thinks their sentiments are so profound that the person receiving them will be thrilled.

    As I’ve mentioned I got a high number in the draft lottery and that was 1969, so that is my Viet Nam War story. So maybe if I said thank you for letting me sit home and be safe all my life, while you almost got yourself killed on my behalf would be more sincere. Or at least it would be more accurate.


    • Joseph Nebus says:

      As I’ve mentioned I got a high number in the draft lottery and that was 1969, so that is my Viet Nam War story. So maybe if I said thank you for letting me sit home and be safe all my life, while you almost got yourself killed on my behalf would be more sincere. Or at least it would be more accurate.

      That puts me in mind of a great scene in an early episode of Taxi, where Reverend Jim talks about how he was the living embodiment of The Sixties and went with everything, “even if I didn’t know what it was”. And then Tony chews him out, saying, Jim was only able to do all that nonsense because he was over in Vietnam doing his fighting for him, and what do you say to that?

      Jim brightly says, “Thanks!” and Tony nods a little, all anger dissipated, and says, “You’re welcome.”

      Anyway, on the “thank you for your service” matter, well, I’m suspicious of all mass-market emotions, this one not excepted, and I do suspect that the effort to market “say thank you to veterans! They’re better people than you!” is an effort to get all the benefits of a large and ever-more-active military without acknowledging or even paying the costs that inflicts on the people and the Republic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. mistermuse says:

    I couldn’t agree more that we live in an age of unbridled narcissism, Don. I’d try to make a joke of it now, but it’s not funny….well, maybe it is funny, if one is a fatalist, so I’ll take a rain check and hope to live long enough to write another day.


    • I have a similar but stranger story. When I lived in Fairfield Ohio, I was a volunteer squadron leader with four cadets and involved with the Civil Air Patrol. I also was a cadet myself in high school since I liked aviation. Knowing how cold the Ohio winters are, I ordered a double knit cap with the Air Force logo on the front. Thought nothing wrong with wearing it since I was a bit proud of my service to the community.
      One evening I was shopping with my husband at a Meijer superstore. Riding in the store cart since my replacements were stiff, I picked up a copy of a DVD I saw at the checkout. Clumsy me, it slipped out of my hand and I tried to retrieve it. Suddenly a very nice gentlemen in his 40’s or 50’s stooped to pick it up and put the errant DVD in my hand.
      Looking at my cap with the Air force logo while I was seated there all dressed in my favorite color of blue, he must have assumed I had been in the military. He then said meekly, “Thank you for your service.” I was taken aback and said the first thing that came to my mind which was, “Just doing my job, Sir.”
      True story. I am not ashamed for accepting his thanks. After all, one of my cadets joined the Air Force and became an excellent pilot who served his country well.


  5. mistermuse says:

    I’ve long questioned the wisdom of the old saying “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” but in the case of the “very nice gentleman,” it fits perfectly. He didn’t need to know the truth about what he assumed, and it didn’t hurt him a bit for you not to tell him. Nice story, Michaeline.


  6. Mélanie says:

    I read NYT almost every day… see what you mean… btw, I love Maureen Dowd’s articles and guess what: she’s a Cappy gal, like me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mistermuse says:

    Maureen Dowd? I would’ve thought you were more the George Will/Charles Krauthammer type! 🙂


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