Wanna hear something not so secret? I’m a civilian, and prior to working with Team Rubicon, I had very few veteran friends.
Today, some of the most awesome and badass people in the world share my abiding love of bacon, coffee, and getting shit done, but a few short years ago, I was firmly with the large part of the population who simply don’t know how to relate to veterans.
As the holidays approach, most of us, veteran or civilian, will be filled with an overwhelming sense of joy, goodwill, and gratitude. Many of my friends will be the recipient of the phrase “thank you for your service.” To some it will be welcome, but to others it will come off as flippant, a throw-away phrase encapsulating everything wrong with the way our country treats our military, as if five words could even begin to encompass the honor, pain, and determination very few citizens know firsthand.
So as a civilian, let me attempt to explain. For many of us, we don’t quite know what else to say. We don’t intend to be trite, to diminish your work, or to attempt to absolve ourselves of your pain. We want to make an acknowledgment of what we’ve heard you’ve been through, but sometimes, we’re unsure of how to start that conversation.
Studies suggest the civilian/military divide is increasing, and for many of us, this brief expression is the only way we know how to make that connection. As a civilian who has thanked people for their service, I know that the work of America’s veterans shapes the world in which we live, whether through their time in uniform or their continued service afterward through organizations like Team Rubicon, The Mission Continues, and Team RWB.
I know my veteran friends have faced moments of unyielding bravery, terror, and hope. I know there’s no way I can ever hope to express to a stranger the depths of my gratitude and how little I still understand about the strength and will of a person who would put themselves on the line for me and millions of other Americans. And I know that because of these veterans, my life is enriched.
Some of the most brilliant, kind, and generous people I know belong to some of the organizations listed above. But when there’s hardly enough time for me to explain this to a stranger at the supermarket or the gas station, I simply say, “Thank you for your service.” When you have the time and opportunity, learn more about their service.