Why Not Simply Say Thank You?

by Megan Hawker, MA, IMF #65325        ACI Clinical Specialist                           Captain, Medical Service Corps, US Army Reserves

Saying thank you is simple and direct.

Is it offensive to say? No. Most veterans and service members genuinely appreciate the support, responding with bobbed heads and a polite, “Thank you for your support.” Unfortunately, there is often a range of emotions elicited with this type of gratitude.

I asked friends and colleagues, “What are your thoughts on being thanked for your service?” The most common answer I received was, “It’s complicated.”  The “thank you” is usually expressed with genuine appreciation, but is not always received as intended.

For some veterans, the recognition brings unpleasant reminders of combat and unresolved or difficult feelings.

Still making sense of experiences

One of my colleagues explained the interior dialogue that he feels when people thank him: “I still have such mixed feelings, and they can change by the minute. I’m still not sure how I feel. What was it all about? Was it worth it? What does this say about me? Has it made me a different person?”

Many don’t know how to explain what they have gone through, and might not want to relive the memories. They must continually process past experiences and current realities.  While service members may appreciate a “thank you,” the words might also bring up these feelings.

Honoring the fallen

“Every time I am thanked, my mind goes to my friends that didn’t come back. I’m glad we are respected and appreciated, but I still feel the guilt that it was them and not me.”

The veterans who deserve the most thanks are not here to receive it. No amount of thanks can fill the void of lost service members and the grief felt by family, friends and comrades in arms. Show your support by celebrating the fallen during the day of remembrance, Memorial Day.

Understanding what it means

There is an inherent risk when joining the military that one’s career may involve being separated from your family for a long period of time and deploying to combat zones. Several colleagues expressed that the “thank you” was more meaningful when the person understands what the experiences mean to the service member.

For example, one Army friend explained, “If they knew I was deployed and what my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was, I think that would be different. To me, that felt like a genuine sacrifice. But signing on the dotted line and putting on a uniform was the easy part. The hard part was being away from my family for 15 months, becoming aware of my mortality at 21, and doing and seeing so many things I never imagined. ”

It’s best when you know the individual’s service: not recognition just for the uniform, but for the individual skills and sacrifice the service member has put into her work. It’s appropriate to ask first what the service member does before thanking her.

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About ACI Specialty Benefits

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One Response to Why Not Simply Say Thank You?

  1. michael says:

    Im impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog thats both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

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