It must have been Veterans Day one year during the last decade, when Charene, our Human Resources Manager, walked into my office and said “Thank you for your service, Ed.” At first I was shocked, literally. It has been over 45 years since my service days and no one had ever said those words to me . . . never . . . until then. Back in the day, we were vilified, spit upon and called bad names (things better left unsaid anymore as to not be censored). The military and anyone involved with them was the bad guy. Can you understand my feeling of “shock” when Charene came in and, unknowingly, made my day that day? It made my eyes water, there was a flood of mixed emotions . . . I remember it well. It made me feel proud. I also remember being somewhat embarrassed to say “you’re welcome.” Am I supposed to say that? I did not voluntarily enlist for any possible future accolades and I still am somewhat embarrassed if someone tells me “Thank you for your service.” After all, I was doing “a job” that I wanted to do – I volunteered.
And yet, I find myself telling veterans and former law enforcement folks I meet, in person or online, “Thank you for your service.” They don’t usually respond with a “you’re welcome” either. It’s okay, I don’t expect it – it is an awkward place. Perhaps one can consider a nod of the head, or merely that it was said out loud, as acknowledgement, and no further comment is necessary.
Men and women, who every day don the uniforms of the military, police, border patrol, or firefighters, have also volunteered to do a job they want to do. They get paid very handsomely as well. Quite frankly, these men and women do a job that most of us will not even consider – jobs that could cost their very existence on this planet; it doesn’t happen all the time but it could happen at any time, I get it.
From this old Marine, before he fades away to join Chesty Puller (wherever the Hell he is), to you, these men and women -- even to that COP who gave me the $85 street sweeper ticket the other day, you know who you are -- I would like to extend these five words . . . “Thank you for your service.” It is my hope that you are not embarrassed as I first was when Charene came into my office that day . . . but proud in the realization that you are being acknowledged for doing a tough job that most people do not want to do. Stand tall and be proud – Thank you for your service.