What do we say when someone thanks us for our service? If you serve or have served, what do you say?
Years ago I committed to a standard reply. I didn’t put much thought into it. I just wanted to not be caught awkward, so I would say, “Thank you, Sir/Ma’am.”
Since then I’ve wanted to respond in a way that expresses my own gratitude. Before I get to my response, here are three things I remind myself of to keep my response honest.
The first is that the USA has an all-volunteer military. I try not to take that for granted although I do think a few years of mandated military service would help any youngster leaving the nest. I also think it could be a useful reform tool for young citizens with minor offenses. But for the same reason we don’t have to draft, we don’t send prisoners to military service which is that plenty of willing citizens raise their right hands on their own.
Something else I think about is the small list of sacrifices given up to continue doing the job asked of me. I think about how I don’t get to live where I want, how long I live there, when I deploy, how long I deploy. I don’t get to leave a job, bring a cell phone into the office, wear longer PT shorts, etc. Of course the most significant freedom given up is choosing where to live and work. That’s a HUGE factor in a person’s sanity. I did some math recently to discover that every two years since 2004 I changed permanent addresses – a minimum of 1 address every two years (Barksdale AFB assignment, I had 3 different addresses). I love this game by the way. I’m Rain Man level with numbers and dates *pops knuckles*.
- Here we go:
- 2004 March – Korea to Germany
- 2006 August – to Shreveport, LA (The Towers Apts)
- 2008 September – to Shreveport, LA (Town Oaks South Apt after 8 month deployment)
- 2010 September – to D’Iberville, MS
- 2012 September – to Biloxi, MS
- 2014 August – to Shaw AFB, SC
- 2016 May – to Sumter, SC
That’s a lot. This isn’t complaining; I’ve liked the adventures. I would’ve liked more overseas time, but you can’t have it all. Someone that’s ok with moving that much still carries the stress from starting over again and leaving friends made.
My final thought is that the person thanking you is familiar with the sacrifices asked of military members be it prior service, family member, neighbor, church member, friend of the family, or the news. Their thanking you in that moment is saying, “I get it. I want you to know that I get it. I appreciate what you have been through. I respect what your family has endured in your absences.”
I think all service members have thought about to how approach being thanked for their service. These are my big three considerations (not the only three). The last probably rings a little louder than the others, because I’m a fan of empathy. I love to see any glimpse of it. It’s refreshing like when a news channel reports on a successful rescue or that a kid started a business.
Today my response may be a canned/rehearsed one, but it’s genuine because of the things I remind myself. I look the person in the eye and tell them “Thank you for your support.” I feel like I express to them that I get that they get it, and it makes this whole thing a little more worthwhile being appreciated.
If you’re someone that’s taken the oath, I want to know what goes through your mind when you hear thank you. How do you feel about it? What do you say? Has your response evolved in some way?
If you’ve ever thanked someone for their service or wanted to, what were your reasons?
I won’t speculate about how others feel about it; I want to hear from you. This is a conversation I’ve wanted to have for a while, and we’ve scratched the surface on social media.