Posts Tagged ‘thank you for your service’

Veterans’ Day is here. My state teachers union, one of the largest in the nation, spotlighted me and I think did a decent story on why I think studying history matters, and highlighted my promotion of the transformative power of narrative history on young people. The lesson was on the history of Veterans’ Day, and the sacrifices that some of our veterans made.

I think I channeled to the kids what was important about veterans and Veterans’ Day.

But just to be clear to any followers or readers, I find a recent phenomena a bit unsettling-a collective rush to say to our veterans those five words, “thank you for your service.” And in a certain context, it is my understanding that a lot of veterans feel this way also. We mean well. But it seems to me like a lot of times we give ourselves a pass, when we say or write those words.

I’m guessing you know, that for every American who chooses to sign on to our military, there are over 100 who chose not to?

But, no judgments there. I had no burning desire to enlist after high school, so I did not “serve” in our armed forces.  Maybe I was lucky I had other options or opportunities.

Or maybe I chose to do something else.

And I feel good. In many ways I “serve” my fellow man every time I step through the schoolhouse door. I have spent more of my life in my classroom than any other single place in the world.

Sure, they pay me for it. But I’d like to think that it has been more than just a way to make a living.

I like putting a face on what we have been through as a nation-and it’s my job to encourage my students to be involved, to step up, to serve others.


It’s raining, and we are raking leaves- on Veterans Day. For veterans.

But actually, it’s my responsibility as a member of the human race.

So why do we write, “thank you for your service”? Appreciation, sure, but just what are we thanking our veterans for? If we answer “freedom”, or “putting themselves in harm’s way for us” while we go about our Very Important Lives, what does that mean?

Now ask the real questions:

1. What are WE all doing to ensure our nation’s well being?

2. Outside of complaining on Facebook, are WE active in our participation in the decisions that send our troops into harm’s way?

3. Is the most recent war, the LONGEST in America’s history, even remotely tangible to most Americans, outside of the tax bills?

4. If we wanted to really express our thanks, don’t you think WE would also pay a little attention or make a bit more noise about how our government looks after them when their service is over?

That’s why “thank you for your service” rings a bit hollow for me when posted, uttered, printed and broadcast over and over, ad infinitum. Let’s be honest. What most of us really mean is “thank you for the stuff I’d rather not pay attention to so I can get on with my life”.


Maybe we should honor them by just taking time to listen, and paying a little bit of attention,  more than one day a year.




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