“Thank you for your service,” an expression once employed as a sincere declaration of respect for military veterans, has lost much of its substance in recent years through overuse.
Like other platitudinous statements, such as “thoughts and prayers,” that people employ whenever they can’t think of something more meaningful to say, “Thank you for your service” has been uttered so many times that it’s like a pretty front door on an empty house — there’s not much behind it.
It isn’t that people don’t mean well, but being able to roll out these five words whenever the occasion arises doesn’t cover the entire debt owed to the men and women who have served and continue to serve this country.
Consider this as we approach Veterans Day on Monday: young people fresh out of high school and college and about to embark on life’s journey instead elect to put their dreams and ambitions on hold for two, three and four years, or even more.
They will be separated from their families and all that is familiar, and place their futures in the hands of people they don’t know, to do an unknown job in unknown conditions in a place yet to be determined.
They will follow orders with which they don’t always agree, and, possibly put themselves in harm’s way regardless of their own personal convictions, because duty comes first.
It asks a great deal of any rational human being to give up everything for the opportunity to do what he or she is told.
Expressing appreciation, pride and even patriotism is easy, but being a part of the institution that makes these things possible is one of the most difficult things anyone can do, especially in a society that interprets freedom so many different ways.
So, yes, it’s still acceptable to thank veterans for their service, but say it only after contemplating the reality of what it means to serve, and then, maybe, have a little something more to say.