//Another U.S. Veteran Passionately Pleads: “Please Don’t Thank Me For My Service”

Another U.S. Veteran Passionately Pleads: “Please Don’t Thank Me For My Service”

by Mike Krieger 

2-25-2015

It wasn’t true. There was a problem. I could see it from the way he looked down. And I could see it on the faces of some of the other vets who work with Mr. Garth when I thanked them too. What gives, I asked? Who doesn’t want to be thanked for their military service?

Many people, it turns out. Mike Freedman, a Green Beret, calls it the “thank you for your service phenomenon.” To some recent vets – by no stretch all of them — the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.

Mr. Garth, 26, said that when he gets thanked it can feel self-serving for the thankers, suggesting that he did it for them, and that they somehow understand the sacrifice, night terrors, feelings of loss and bewilderment. Or don’t think about it at all.

– From the New York Times article: Please Don’t Thank Me for My Service

Last fall, Liberty Blitzkrieg highlighted a powerful letter written by former U.S. Army Ranger Rory Fanning, in the post: “Stop Thanking Me for My Service” – Former U.S. Army Ranger Blasts American Foreign Policy and The Corporate State. In it, I explained why his comments resonated so powerfully with me. Here’s an excerpt:

I have to admit, whenever I find myself in the midst of a large public gathering (which fortunately isn’t that often), and the token veteran or two is called out in front of the masses to “honor” I immediately begin to cringe as a result of a massive internal conflict. On the one hand, I recognize that the veteran(s) being honored is most likely a decent human being. Either poor or extraordinarily brainwashed, the man or woman paraded in front of the crowd is nothing more than a pawn. Even if their spouse hasn’t left them; even if whatever conflict they were involved in didn’t result in a permanent disability or post traumatic stress disorder, this person has been used and abused, and thirty seconds of cheering in between ravenous bites out of a footlong hotdog from a drunk and apathetic crowd isn’t going to change that. I don’t harbor negative sentiments toward the veteran.

On the other hand, the entire spectacle makes me sick. I refuse to participate in the superficial charade for many reasons, but the primary one is that I don’t want to play any part in the crowd’s insatiable imbecility. It’s the stupidity and ignorance of the masses that the corporate-state preys upon, and that’s precisely what’s on full display at these tired and phony imperialist celebrations.

Interestingly and satisfyingly, it appears the phony “thank you for your service” comment is seen as the empty, thoughtless platitude it is by a large amount of U.S. veterans. Rather than saying “thank your for your service,” it appears increasingly clear the appropriate sentiment should be something like, “I’m really sorry American leadership carelessly sacrificed your life for no good reason.”

Don’t take it from me though. Read the following excerpts from a recent New York Times article focusing on the travails of U.S. Marine veteran Hunter Garth:

I didn’t know any of this — nor the remarkable story of his survival that day — when I met him two months ago in Colorado while reporting for an article about the marijuana industry, for which Mr. Garth and his company provide security. But I did know he was a vet and so I did what seemed natural: I thanked him for his service.

“No problem,” he said.

It wasn’t true. There was a problem. I could see it from the way he looked down. And I could see it on the faces of some of the other vets who work with Mr. Garth when I thanked them too. What gives, I asked? Who doesn’t want to be thanked for their military service?

Many people, it turns out. Mike Freedman, a Green Beret, calls it the “thank you for your service phenomenon.” To some recent vets — by no stretch all of them — the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.

Mr. Garth, 26, said that when he gets thanked it can feel self-serving for the thankers, suggesting that he did it for them, and that they somehow understand the sacrifice, night terrors, feelings of loss and bewilderment. Or don’t think about it at all.

The issue has been percolating for a few years, elucidated memorably in “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a 2012 National Book Award finalist about a group of soldiers being feted at halftime of a Dallas Cowboys game. The soldiers express dread over people rushing to offer thanks, pregnant with obligation and blood lust and “their voices throbbing like lovers.”

The idea of giving thanks while not participating themselves is one of the core vet quibbles, said Mr. Freedman, the Green Beret. The joke has become so prevalent, he said, that servicemen and women sometimes walk up to one another pretending to be “misty-eyed” and mockingly say “Thanks for your service.”

Mr. Freedman, 33, feels like the thanks “alleviates some of the civilian guilt,” adding: “They have no skin in the game with these wars. There’s no draft.”

No real opinions either, he said. “At least with Vietnam, people spit on you and you knew they had an opinion.”

“Thank you for your service,” he said, is almost the equivalent of “I haven’t thought about any of this.”

Tim O’Brien, a Vietnam vet and the author of the acclaimed book “The Things They Carried,” told me that his war’s vets who believed in the mission like to be thanked. Others, himself included, find that “something in the stomach tumbles” from expressions of appreciation that are so disconnected from the “evil, nasty stuff you do in war.”

The more so, he said, “when your war turns out to have feet of clay” — whether fighting peasants in Vietnam or in the name of eradicating weapons of mass destruction that never materialized.

But doesn’t their sacrifice merit thanks? “Patriotic gloss,” responded Mr. O’Brien, an unofficial poet laureate of war who essentially elevates the issue to the philosophical; to him, we’re thanking without having the courage to ask whether the mission is even right.

As we know all too well, most Americans aren’t inclined to thinking very much in the first place, so this is no surprise.

It wasn’t what he romanticized. First training and waiting. Then the reality that he might die, along with his friends — 17 of them did, in action, by accident or by suicide. And, he now asks, for what?

So what to say to a vet? Maybe promise to vote next time, Mr. Freedman said, or offer a scholarship or job (as, he said, some places have stepped up and done). Stand up for what’s right, suggested Mr. O’Brien. Give $100 to a vet, Ben Fountain, author of the “Billy Lynn” book, half-joked, saying it would at least show some sacrifice on the thanker’s part.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of all this, is that the American public and U.S. politicians have learned absolutely zero lessons from the last decade and a half of constant war. In fact, the bloodlust and irrational drive toward military action all over the globe continues unabated. As Charles Pierce notes in his Esquire article, Drums Along The Potomac: How This Country Never Learns Anything:

Quite frankly, this has been one of the more depressing weeks we have seen in a very long time. The country seems to be sliding down some very familiar tracks into a military engagement in the Middle East — an engagement that, at the moment, seems to be cloudy in its objectives, vague in its outlines, and obscure on the simple fact of what we are supposedly fighting for, and who we will be fighting with. Can we fight the Islamic State generally without help from (gasp!) Iran? Can we fight the Islamic State in Syria without a de facto alliance with Hafez al-Assad, who was Hitler only a year or so ago? And the most recent polling seems to indicate that all the institutions that are supposed to act as a brake on war powers within a self-governing republic are working in reverse again. The Congress is going to debate how much leeway it should give the president to make war, not whether he should be allowed to do it at all. The elite media, having scared Americans to death by giving the barbarians and their slaughter porn the international platform the barbarians so desired, is jumping on board with both feet. (To cite only one example, Chris Matthews is suiting up again.) The country has been prepared to give its children up again.

But it may not be enough. The next presidential election is gearing up, and what is going on in the Middle East has changed the dynamic of that race utterly. People may be running for president with American troops in harm’s way, whether the engagement there is general or not. The opinion of the country has been manufactured again to demand a war with no clear goals and no clear endpoint. Voices of reason and moderation — Hi, Marie Harf! — are being shouted down by conservatives and only tepidly supported by liberals. Nearly 100 years ago, rising in the Senate to oppose the entry of the United States into World War I, Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin called the bluff of every hawk who ever called for a blind punch at a designated enemy.

We should not seek to hide our blunder behind the smoke of battle to inflame the mind of our people by half truths into the frenzy of war in order that they may never appreciate the real cause of it until it is too late. I do not believe that our national honor is served by such a course. The right way is the honorable way.

The ground already is prepared, the soil tilled. The mission already is creeping.

Repeat after me: USA! USA!’

Article Previously Appeared on Liberty Blitzkrieg

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