As we approach Veterans Day, a time to honor and remember those who have served in the military, it’s vital to reflect on the depth and complexity of this recognition. Larry Sharpe, a former Marine and host of the Sharpe Way, once poignantly said, “I don’t say thank you for your service,” but instead, “I’m glad you made it home.” This sentiment taps into a profound and often unspoken reality for many veterans.
For numerous veterans, their service is a complex tapestry of pride, duty, sacrifice, and sometimes, ambivalence. The phrase “thank you for your service,” while well-intentioned, can sometimes feel like a hollow or reflexive gesture, similar to how people offer ‘thoughts and prayers’ in the aftermath of a tragedy. It’s a recognition, but one that can unwittingly gloss over the individual’s personal experiences and sacrifices.
Many veterans carry memories they can’t unsee and experiences they can’t forget. Some may feel proud, while others are burdened with the heavy cloak of what they’ve witnessed or endured. This spectrum of emotions means that a simple ‘thank you’ might not always capture the gravity of their experiences.
Sharpe’s alternative, “I’m glad you made it home,” resonates on a deeper, more personal level. It acknowledges the journey, the survival, and the return – a journey that, tragically, not all service members make. This statement recognizes the sacrifice and also the loss that accompanies military service. It’s a reminder that while some veterans physically return home, they may leave comrades behind or parts of themselves in the places they’ve served.
This Veterans Day, let’s strive to go beyond the standard expressions of gratitude. Let’s take a moment to genuinely engage with the veterans in our lives. Acknowledge their journey, recognize their experiences, and understand that their service is a multifaceted chapter in their life story. Saying “I’m glad you made it home” can open the door to more meaningful conversations, offering veterans the sense that their service and sacrifices are seen and understood on a deeper level.
Remember, each veteran’s experience is unique. Some may appreciate a simple ‘thank you,’ while others might resonate more with a heartfelt expression of relief at their safe return. The most important thing is to approach these interactions with genuine respect, empathy, and a willingness to listen.
In the spirit of Veterans Day, let us honor our veterans not just with words, but with understanding and sincerity. Let us remember that sometimes the most impactful way to show gratitude is simply to acknowledge the journey home.