Thank You For Your Service

I hear it a lot. Thank you for your service.

There are basically two kinds of combat veterans: ones who can’t talk about it, and ones who can’t shut up about it. I’m in the second group.

Combat changes a person. War. Technically everything a person experiences large or small causes some change, but combat tends to be large, traumatic, and attention-getting, so it changes people more. Or it did me, anyway.

So I talk about it, I say (or write or tweet) “when I was in Vietnam we…” and somebody says (or writes or tweets) “Thank you for your service.”

I really wish they would not say that.

“Thank you for your service” was laid on American society by Republicans to make themselves look like the party that cares for veterans while they’re cutting our funding.

“Thank you for your service” was laid on American society by Republicans who had figured out that people – the American public writ large – had lost the thrill of war and would rather we Just Didn’t Do That Right Now. Because Vietnam. Because it was still fresh in memory then.

So they built this Thank You For Your Service trope so we could pretend that there is an inherent connection between war and patriotism, war and heroism.

I don’t really want to hear it.

In the first place you would have had to thank this guy 

And not this one.

But even more to the point, there was a reason nobody “thanked” us. The war in Vietnam was a shitty idea and a lot of us knew it. If somebody said thanks they might get any number of responses, only a few of which were positive.

Here’s what you are thanking us for: We went into somebody else’s country and we killed them, there in their home country, because our government did not approve of the government they had chosen for themselves.

Thanks? You know, if somebody wanted to say, I recognize your loyalty to your country, I could go with that, but that’s not the message Republicans wanted to get out in the public. A message like that might tend to call attention to the fact that the children of the governing classes in the United States in those days rarely showed the same loyalty we “troops” showed. Our government said, “We want you to go kill a bunch of strangers who aren’t threatening you,” and a lot of us said, “Sounds like a shitty idea, but OK, if that’s the price I’ve got to pay to be an American.” But as it turned out, we were the suckers.

Bill Clinton didn’t go. Newt Gingrich didn’t go. George W. Bush didn’t go. Donald Trump didn’t go. Mitch McConnell didn’t go.

John Kerry and Al Gore went, but they didn’t exactly get thanked for their service.

Attendee at 2004 Republican National Convention demonstrating her contempt for the Purple Heart.

But for now the Republicans don’t have any veterans they have to belittle, so they have returned to Thankyouforyourservice. It’s like a talking doll.

“When I was in Vietnam…”

“Thankyouforyourservice.”

“I get my medical care from the VA and…”

“Thankyouforyourservice.”

Wait.

I killed a bunch of people. It wasn’t their idea for me to be in their country.

They killed a bunch of my friends, and shot me up pretty good in the process. I killed them on purpose. That’s how war works. When the shooting starts one tends not to think of philosophical subleties. But…

“Thankyouforyourservice.”?

No. Please. I really, really don’t want to hear it.

If you happen to see this guy walking by you can thank him.

Sergeant Flower
Sgt. Flower on some godforsaken hilltop in Vietnam, 1968
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3 thoughts on “Thank You For Your Service”

  1. We have at least a temporary “win” on healthcare (with miles to go before we get quality, affordable universal health care), and my sight are now on the proposed 10% increase in the defense budget, along with cuts to the State Dept. More weapons and soldiers rather than negotiations? JUST SAY NO!

  2. I’d prefer saying “welcome home” to you.

    I learned from my first marriage to a Vietnam Vet that it’s never too late to say that.

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