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November 11, 2021
Veterans Day 2021: Don’t Thank Me for My Service
This piece is entirely the opinion of the writer, Joseph Gunderson. Nothing in this piece should be taken as a position held or endorsed by anyone other than the writer.
It's Veterans Day once more, and surely every veteran and service member will undoubtedly be inundated with text messages, phone calls, and social media notifications from people thanking them for their service.
Thank you for your service.
The line is tired, overused, and frankly, makes many veterans terribly uncomfortable. How does one respond to such a statement, especially without sounding pompous or entitled? "You are welcome, good sir/ma'am!" No. It's weird.
This year don't thank us. I'm not speaking in code here, either. I mean this in the most serious way possible: do not thank veterans for their service. Instead, I wish everyone to act as if the service of American veterans was worth it.
It's far harder to do. It's far harder to really think about what those men and women in uniform truly do for every American, to attempt to sincerely take account of the sacrifice—the time spent away from loved ones, the tears and bloodshed, the lives lost, and the permanent physical and mental wounds borne—and then be the kind of citizen who is worth such a sacrifice.
One must remember, this country remains in existence solely by the blood and strength of those willing and able to wear the uniforms of our armed services. Without every Soldier, Seaman, Marine, Airman, and Guardsmen, this country falls to any foreign power that would decide to attack. Americans can sleep soundly at night because those men and women stand guard at the gates.
This isn't a cliché. This is reality.
So, can you look in the mirror and say with certainty that how you comport yourself is in a manner befitting someone whose freedom has been paid for in blood, bought for you by someone who never needed to know your name, your gender, age, race, religion, or anything else about you—they only needed to know you were their kin, that you were an American. Have you been worth that sacrifice, that love—because it is undeniably love.
This is a burden every American must carry, including those of us who have served in uniform. We, too, must be worth what we and our other brothers- and sisters-in-arms have done. But this burden need not be heavy. In fact, it should cause all to stand a little straighter, hold their heads a little higher, open their hearts a little wider, and work a little harder to be Americans for which it is worth fighting and dying.
This is my hope.
Of course, people will still thank us for our service. I've already received a few messages, and I shake my head, smile, and reply, "thanks." We get it. This little acknowledgment is easy. Which is exactly why it shouldn't happen, though.
The sacrifice of veterans is too great to be brushed off by a thank you on a single day of the year. So don't do that.
Don't thank us for our service. Be an American worthy of that service. Do that, and I promise, this entire country will be better for it.
And to my brothers and sisters, Happy Veterans Day. Brave Rifles. Ai-ee-yah.
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