Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thoughts To Chew On

I came across a couple of different articles today discussing civilian/veteran interactions and people's desire to thank active duty soldiers/troops as they come across them (usually in airports). As readers of my blog have noticed, I've written several times about my own personal experiences and feelings when strangers come up to me and start thanking me. It can get a bit awkward, especially for an introvert. My go to response is to just thank them for their "thanks" and move on. My real issue is when people I hardly know pry further then they should, often bringing up something about PTSD or my mental health.

According to this article, there is a growing number of veterans who don't even like to be thanked for their service. To some of these vets...
"...the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters."
I understand that sentiment, and a few times during my service (usually immediately after a deployment), I agreed with it. Thanking me felt especially shallow when it came directly after finding out what I did without any further inquiry into my life or story. What exactly is this person thanking me for?

But the statement (and the article in general) feels asshole'ish. This comment really irked me:
“At least with Vietnam, people spit on you and you knew they had an opinion.”
I'm sorry, but I'd rather be thanked than spit on. Don't let that chip on your shoulder blind you to what could be genuine thoughtfulness. Something I need to remind myself on occasion.

The second article is a little more sad. There are no heroes in it. A captain takes $40 (!) from an older lady who wants to thank him for what he does, not realizing that she's giving money to an officer who makes more than enough to support himself and his family. The officer, who is also a chaplain, should have declined the money. It's one thing to pay for someone's meal, it's another to just hand them money like they are a charity case. The author calls the captain out on it, but he does it in an obnoxious way which results in the chaplain fleeing the airport bar without paying his tab. Call the captain out on his error, but perhaps encourage him to use that money for a good use, like donating it to the airport USO or finding some lower enlisted soldiers who could use a free meal.


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