I have a problem with the title of this Post. I served in the Marines for 2 years, 9 months, 13 days and 7 hours from ’70-’73. I was stationed at 8th and I in Washington DC for most of that time, and anything I did or didn’t do probably had absolutely zero relevance to the conflict in VietNam. So why am I being thanked for 3 years of partying in our Nation’s Capitol? Because the idiot who is thanking me doesn’t know diddly about what I did. For all this person knows, I ate the Big Chicken Dinner for a pedophileac massacre outside Dallas.
I absolutely hate it when someone thanks me for this. Part of it is because while I volunteered for a tour in ‘Nam (3 times) I never went. Part of it is because I knew so many who did go over and came back changed or broken or didn’t come back. Some sort of survivor guilt perhaps. Whatever, I’m not ashamed of what I did, I just don’t think it was any big deal. It could have been, but it wasn’t.
I asked a blog writer that I read (Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station) in the comment section of on of his blogs (http://www.stonekettle.com/2012/02/moderation-is-on.html about 3/4ths the way down). He responded with this:
I have a dilemma and my wife suggested that you could be the solution.
I’ve been recently been accosted several times by people thanking me for my service. Generally speaking, these people never served or even seriously thought about serving in anything approaching military or social service. It feels creepy and kinda makes me want to ask if they want Fries with that.
Am I being an asshole, a curmudgeon, too sensitive, or does this kind of thing strike you as being just another Romney moment?
my wife suggested that you could be the solution
Tell your wife that the first one is free, but I charge for any advice after that.
Am I being an asshole, a curmudgeon, too sensitive…
None of the above. Or all of the above. Pick your poison.
For what it’s worth, I myself am uncomfortable when I’m approached and thanked by strangers for my military service. Most of us are.
See, we’re not supposed need or want that gratitude, are we? We’re supposed to serve out of a sense of selfless duty, out of patriotism, out of honor, or because the country needs us, or because it’s our job.
You’re not supposed to feel good about being thanked for your sacrifice – especially when many times it doesn’t feel like such a sacrifice. Especially when our brothers and sisters in arms often gave much, much more. Especially when so many of us didn’t come home. And yet here we are mostly hale and healthy and walking around, that is supposed to be thanks enough.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that we do what we do because it serves a higher purpose, not because we might get some kind of personal validation from others. And this is a good thing because free societies should neither create nor worship a warrior class. We do what we do out of duty, not because it makes us superior citizens.
But we all secretly want that? Don’t we? We want those who didn’t serve to at least acknowledge our service. We want to know that they know that we’re out there busting our asses for them, out there in the mud and the blood and the shit while they’re home screwing our sweethearts and taking our jobs and going to college and living their goddamned lives. We want them to know how lucky they are. Don’t we?
And that kind of makes us assholes.
At least that’s what we’ve been led to believe. We do what we do because it’s our job, our duty, and we’d do it even if nobody gave a damn, even if every civilian thinks we’re dimwitted knuckle dragging goons who couldn’t get a real job, even if every TV show and Hollywood movie continues to show us day in and day out as slobbering warmongering cardboard cutout jarhead robot stereotypes who scream YES SIR! and secretly scheme to take over the country.
And so, when somebody thanks us, we feel cognitive dissonance. We feel guilty, because we’re not supposed to need that validation. Because in our minds it feels wrong.
And it gets worse, because so often it feels like “Thanks for your service” is the new “have a nice day.” It sometimes feels phony and obsequious and something people do because America has this big giant guilt complex over how they treated veterans after Korea and especially Vietnam.
HOWEVER most of the time that’s all projection on our part. Most of time people are simply expressing their sincere gratitude for what we do. They don’t know that we carry this baggage around with us. They just want you to know that your service is appreciated, that they appreciate it. They see us on the news, they see the terrible things we do, they know that many of us come back damaged, and they can’t do anything about it and they often feel guilty for not serving themselves – so they thank you. You were taught that in uniform you’re an Ambassador for America, out of uniform, as a vet, you’re a representative for all those who can no longer be thanked. You represent all those who have served, who have fallen, who have returned damaged. It’s your duty, it’s part of that oath your swore – not the one to the Constitution, but the unspoken one to your brothers and sisters in arms.
Take the expressions of gratitude in the spirit offered, if not for yourself then do it for all those still out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world.
I think he said it far better than I ever could. So thank you … now go away and leave me alone.