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Old 03-26-2017, 05:12 PM
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Gummiente Gummiente is offline
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"Thank you for your service"

This has been eating away at me for a while. Let the chips fall where they may...

“Thank you for your service.” I never know what to say in return when someone says this to me. I feel awkward and embarrassed every time and usually just mumble a "thank you" in return before turning a bit red and changing the subject or just walking away. It's not like I'm hiding the fact that I am a retired soldier; with the Veteran plates on my Harley and Jeep and a camo riding jacket and leather vest emblazoned with the crest of the Veterans group I belong to sewn on the back, it's not hard to figure out that I am proud to have given 15yrs of my life in service to my country. The problem is when people thank me for my service it makes me feel like a bit of an imposter because they probably think I am a Combat Veteran who served in Afghanistan and that is just not true.

I served during the tail end of the Cold War, from 1980 – 1995, a period during which Canadian involvement in global conflicts was minimal and received minimum coverage from the press. Other than the Gulf War, of course, which I was not selected to take part in. I did, however, serve 4yrs at the Canadian Armed Forces Base in Lahr, Germany, during the period when there was much sabre rattling between NATO and the former USSR, but even though we went on high alert a few times there weren't any shots fired. We trained for war, but were never exposed to it.

Back then it was not “cool” to be in the military. The Canadian economy was in a rut and joining the Army was generally viewed as an act of desperation and/or a last ditch attempt to find a regular paycheque. The government in power at that time was not a friend of the military – I'm not going to mention names or political parties here, but suffice it to say the son of the Prime Minister at that time is now wreaking his own havoc on my country - and years of budget cuts had taken a severe toll on the operational effectiveness and morale of the troops. We were the laughing stock of NATO, really, and in our own country there were many places you did not go with short hair after dark. Like many other soldiers of that era, I developed a deep mistrust of the media and civilians in general because of the way I was treated in and out of uniform. But I never lost my patriotism and love for my country. I still believed it was worth standing on guard for and, if necessary, giving my life to defend her. I just couldn't let anyone else other than my fellow soldiers know about it.

Then the Afghanistan conflict happened, years after I had retired. Suddenly our brothers and sisters were dying over there and the horrible reality of war was forced upon our nation in a capacity not seen since World War II. Suddenly, the military was called into action to do what it had been training to do for decades and in a blessed moment of clarity the civilian population was solid in support. As the years passed the ugly realities of PTSD, suicide, traumatic injuries and more were also thrust upon the populace and finally the civilians began to understand the demons that came back with our soldiers.

By now I had the Veteran plates on my vehicles and was working in an industry far removed from the military. And then it started happening, the same questions asked of me every time someone found out I was a Veteran; “Did you shoot anyone?”, followed by “Were you in Afghanistan?” Now let me make this perfectly clear, NEVER have I held myself out to be anything other than a “peacetime” Veteran at any time, nor will I ever lie about who I was and what I did. I always answer these kinds of questions honestly and truthfully, I have no desire to augment my career with stolen valour off the backs of those who are still suffering today. My two medals were earned in peacetime and I make no false claims about them or my service record. I do not, nor have I ever suffered any form of PTSD or debilitating injury or disease as a result of my tenure in the military. Usually these revelations result in a disappointed look on the face of those who asked, but at least I can sleep at night knowing I am not living a lie.

So whenever someone thanks me for my service, I honestly don't know how to respond. I know that it takes a lot of courage for someone to approach a Veteran at random and convey their gratitude, so I don't want to take away from the moment, but it feels like I am somehow disrespecting those who have served in conflict and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. All I did was keep the machine oiled and functioning in between periods of relative calm in our society. I am no hero. I am simply a Veteran.
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Old 03-26-2017, 06:14 PM
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Thank you for helping America stay free. And thank the police and firemen for keeping us safe. And the teachers for helping the young to build our future.
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Old 03-26-2017, 08:11 PM
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The fact that you joined up knowing that you could possibly see action is what we thank you for. The willingness to give your all for our country and our freedoms is what we thank you for. Be proud - and thank you for your service.
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Old 03-26-2017, 10:09 PM
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Generally the polite response to "thank you" is "you're welcome."

By the way, thank you for your service.
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Old 03-27-2017, 08:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stoney View Post
The fact that you joined up knowing that you could possibly see action is what we thank you for. The willingness to give your all for our country and our freedoms is what we thank you for. Be proud - and thank you for your service.
Can't say it any better than that!
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:04 AM
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par_fore par_fore is offline
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Here is a bit of perspective for you to consider. You may want to regard the statement "Thank you for your service" as "Thank you for your sacrifice."

Regardless of the temperature of the world or the perception of the military during that period, you sacrificed for 15 years to serve. You did so without knowledge of whether or not you would be engaged in peace or wartime service. You just served. And you did so to protect the freedoms of those of us, myself included, that did not serve. Your sacrifice made that possible and for that I thank you for your service and sacrifice.

I would call that fact that you were not engaged in Afghanistan a blessing and nothing to feel remotely guilty about. It certainly does not diminish your patriotism or the fact that you gave 15 years of your life to serve. It just so happens that you served before that conflict occurred.

So, I thank you for your service and sacrifice. Anytime anyone thanks you for your service you should hold your head high and proud.
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:50 AM
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Having served during the Viet Nam era, I feel qualified to thank you for your service.

So, Thank You.

And I know exactly how you feel, but that's not the point.

The three per cent of us who served will never get or give a diminished "Thank You".
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:07 PM
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Scabbydoo Scabbydoo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stoney View Post
The fact that you joined up knowing that you could possibly see action is what we thank you for. The willingness to give your all for our country and our freedoms is what we thank you for. Be proud - and thank you for your service.
^This!

Two responses I have heard that seemed reasonable are "Thank you for the acknowledgement." and a late friend of mine (and 30 yr veteran of the Marine Corps), who several here on the forum met, used to say "You were worth it.".
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Old 03-30-2017, 05:54 PM
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TalonChief TalonChief is offline
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For many years I heard nothing of the sort, and growing up during the Vietnam era I never expected to. Most civilians are genuine w/ the comment IMO, so I just say thank you back.
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