TYFYS –perhaps pronounced “Tiffies”– will go out of their way to say “Thank You For Your Service”. It is a well-intended way for people to show their support for those of us who have to do a hard job, a demanding job; sometimes a job that will take everything from you– up to and including sanity, well-being, or life itself. People have sent their children up to say it to me, and I do my best to smile and say “thank you” in return– a thanks for the recognition of our collective hardships.
But sometimes it feels that people want to be involved to feel good about themselves; they say TYFYS and they have absolved themselves of the need to think deeper about the subject. There is no further need to explore why we are sent overseas; why our lives are risked and why some of us come home psychologically shattered …or in boxes. The best way to thank a veteran for their service, in my opinion, is to have our backs for real: pay attention to these wars and ask what the end goal really is. Ask what higher purpose is served or who benefits. Ask what the timetable is and why we’re there and if the answers are unsatisfying or insincere or the goals seem murky or ever-shifting, demand to put a stop to it, or you’ll elect leaders who will.
And meanwhile, think about those in your life who serve every day that you may overlook. People think of soldiers when they see the uniform, but the paramedics, the firefighters… and even the “regular” people who make your life easier. The driver that delivers your anniversary or birthday present from Amazon, just in time to make that special day perfect. The teacher who sees to it that your kid grows up prepared for the real world. The mechanic who fixes your car in time for you to go on that long-awaited vacation. You can say “But it’s their jobs!” but at the same time, so too is my service, just slightly different. It’s our job, and we signed up for it.
There are wars fought for obvious reasons. To free a people; to stop a dictator’s atrocities… the ethical situations in these wars are usually clear, or at least the differences between the combatants can be described as “stark”. Nobody wants to go down in history as the person who died for a mistake.