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Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Thousand of husbands and wives will hear the words "Thank you for your Service" in some form or another from the military chain of command and, hopefully, from their civilian community.

Why do those words stick in my craw?

Why can't I accept the thanks with graciousness and merely say "You're welcome"?

A couple of weeks ago, in a diary published by the MCM, I saw a commenter tell a diarist that she wouldn't thank him for his service because I told her we didn't want to hear it. I saw my words thrown back at someone else and it made me have to think very carefully about why the concept of "Thank Your For Your Service" makes me cringe.

The commenter didn't want to express thanks to an active duty member because of what I had said about my family in another diary. She took it to mean you shouldn't thank anyone who served in our Armed Forces. I made her question those words every time she wants to utter them.

Did I really mean to do that?

I know that there are active duty service members that really do appreciate hearing those words. I know there are family members too.

I guess, the hard part for you civilians is figuring out who wants to hear the words and who doesn't. That means you actually need to get to know us before you say thank you. Wow, imagine that, getting to know a military family. I know it isn't easy... we're a rare breed, less than 1% of the population serves. We're pretty hard to find.

We make it more difficult because we hang out on military bases and tend to live in housing sheltered from the civilian community. Our kids often go to schools with other military children and play sports with other military kids. But not always. A lot of us live in the community. A lot of us go to local schools, have jobs in town, sit at the soccer fields on a Saturday afternoon watching the kids play their games, and drink coffee at the local cafe. A lot of us live where there is no base support at all... we've either gone home to find support while a military member deploys or we are the husbands and wives of Reserve and Guard members. I can guarantee you that you have a military family in your neck of the woods be they active duty, reserve, guard, or veteran. There are military families to meet and to get to know everywhere in these United States.

The few times I've heard the words "Thank you for your service" or "Thank you for your husband's service" have been when my husband is deployed and someone has figured out from the context of a conversation that we're a military family. At that point in time, at some of the most stressful points in my life, the last thing I want to hear is that I need to accept your thanks. What I really want to accept is your friendship. I would really rather hear, "Do you have time for a cup of coffee? I would love to get to know you better."  Or, "Do you live in my neck of the woods? I would love to invite you to the next neighborhood potluck?" Maybe you heard me discussing the lack of a military discount for family members when I was trying to take my kids to the Botanical Garden in San Antonio... we got the discount when my husband was with us but not when he was deployed. Maybe you could have offered to pay our entrance fee. I would have said no thanks, and you might have insisted. Either way, the exchange would have been a memory I could cherish.

Thanking me for my husband's service or even my own makes me generic. I become one of them, those military wives over there that are sacrificing their family time so that our nation can be a safer place. Ouch. That's where it really starts to hurt for me. I don't want to be sacrificing my family time, my family, for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. I do it because I love my husband and he loves his job. We both love our country but that has little to do with why he chooses to serve.

I don't want to be thanked for service at this point in time because I'm not proud of what our nation is doing. Being thanked for something I'm not proud dredges up all the bad feelings. And I so want to feel good again. I so want to be proud of my husband's job. When he's not at war, it's easier. Those thank yous are so loaded with unspoken sentiments that I can't tell what folks really mean. Maybe they are really saying "Thank you for supporting the war on terror?" Maybe not. But I can't tell the difference because they haven't invited me into a conversation. They've just spoken a couple of words that are meant to be enough as is.

Obviously, I don't speak for all military wives or husbands. But I know that I do speak for more than one. Others feel like I do. We just don't talk about it. It's hard. It's painful. And it's damn well unpatriotic.

When it comes down to it, I guess making people think about these thank yous is a good thing... What are you truly thanking the service member and their family for? As you search out the military wives and husband that you know and say thank you on this day, think of what else you could do that would symbolize that thanks in a more meaningful way than words.

You want to know the best thank you could give me?

Tell me you called your Representative and your two Senators and asked them to pull us out of Afghanistan.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I like to hear it said (7+ / 0-)

    I got out of the Army in 1969, after 3 years as a paratrooper, one of them spent in Vietnam.

    I NEVER heard anyone say "Thanks for your Service," EVER, untill about the time of the First Gulf War. And then when he said it I looked around to see who he was talking to. True Story!  For decades I had to learn to thank myself for my service because no one else would. Another True Story!

    Things like that were just not said to soldiers before then. When I came home from the Army I took my uniform off and put it away and never mentioned what I did in the Army again---just didn't want to deal with people's negativity about it.

    So let people say thanks and be big enough to say youre welcome. They don't need to know everything about you

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Fri May 06, 2011 at 05:15:48 AM PDT

    •  That's why I felt bad when I saw my own words (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic, Jeffersonian Democrat

      thrown back at someone else. That wasn't my intent.

      Do you think all soldiers feel like you?

      Do you think there are some who would prefer not to be thanked?

      Do you think it even matters?

      •  I think everybody likes to be thanked (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MKSinSA, Jeffersonian Democrat

        Of course everyone in the world has different reactions to things so you won't get one uniform reaction.
        But I say it to people, young soldiers, myself just to make them feel good and it makes me feel good.
        In July I'm goiing to Ft Benning for the Ranger reunion. They let the old guys hang out with the young ones, let the old guys shoot the new weapons. Its a good feeling, theyre sort of awestruck by us (like I was awestruck by the WWII generation of paratroopers). I say thanks to those guys and I FEEL thankful to those guys.
        I think it matters---I think it gives everyone an "up," both the people who say it and the people who hear it.

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Fri May 06, 2011 at 05:33:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think you saying thanks, a guy who has served, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jeffersonian Democrat

          is very different though from a stranger. You guys have a connection already.

          I guess that's what's bothering the most... the lack of connection. You say I shouldn't worry about it. But I want more Americans to understand our life. When a stranger tells me or my husband thank you, they have no idea what they are thanking us for. Not really. They just know that it's a nice thing to do.

          Yeah, I sound unappreciative. I know that. And probably a bit bitchy. But I want more civilians to GET IT and not just be able to say, very easily, Thank You, and then never do anything else to help military families. That's all. I want the thank you to mean something.

          When you get back from Ft. Benning and the Ranger reunion, will you write a diary for us? I would love to hear how it goes.

          •  You can't dictate people's reactions (3+ / 0-)

            Y'know, you do something and some people will like it, some people won't and most people will be entirely unaware of you. You say you want people to GET IT but that GETTING IT is entirely subjective---what YOU think it is. Getting it means different things to different people.
            And when you say that you want their thank you to mean something what youre saying is that you want them to understand what youve been through.
            But that won't happen because most of the people you meet don't know and don't understand what youve been through.
            I guess you can wander around in The Deeper Meaning of all this but one thing I learned in My War was this: way down deep, I'm still reallly shallow. When people say nice things to me or try and be nice to me or say thank you I just smile and say thank you back. I don't need to go farther into it than that.

            You bet I'm going to diary about going to Benning.

            PS I say thank you a lot to soldiers and I'm always dressed in civvies so usually they don't know I was in the Army

            Happy just to be alive

            by exlrrp on Fri May 06, 2011 at 05:54:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I generally try to catch them one-on-one and say (0+ / 0-)

          something like, "Thanks for what you're doing. Stay safe."

          LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

          by BlackSheep1 on Fri May 06, 2011 at 12:10:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  LRRP's have my utmost respect...... (3+ / 0-)

       ..thank you!

      Best, Hoghead99

      Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

      by Hoghead99 on Fri May 06, 2011 at 06:29:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thought provoking and touching. (3+ / 0-)

    Thank you angelajean.

    "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it." President Obama

    by Onomastic on Fri May 06, 2011 at 05:37:23 AM PDT

  •  We can't always express well what's in our heart.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, BlackSheep1

    I can only speak for myself, but I wish I were wiser, and more articulate than I am.  I wish I could adequately convey my deep and humble respect for those who serve and for their families.

    My son is active duty.  He & family live off base.  We and his wife's family don't live nearby.  We travel to help out some of the time when he's deployed.  We are well aware of the burdens shouldered by the families in the absence of their deployed loved ones.  We see how much they miss their spouse, their daddy (and their mommies, etc).  

    Yet, I personally have trouble when I meet other service members or their family members in adequately expressing my gratitude for the tremendous sacrifices they make on a daily basis, or my acknowledgement of the unique stresses they cope with.  I don't want to be intrusive.  I don't want to assume things that someone may not be feeling.  

    Unfortunately, there's not a one size fits all phrase that anyone could say that could possibly express the feelings of either party and any given time.

    So, though the words "thank you" could be just a routine expression, it could also be a very frustratingly inadequate way in which the speaker tries to convey their heartfelt gratitude and acknowledgement of the sacrifices of both the service members, and of their families.  It's a dilemma for many to know what to say, or even whether to say it.

    As the mom of a service member, (and wife and daughter of veterans, and retiree from the VA) I would like to express my own heartfelt gratitude and acknowledgement of the sacrifices of all our service members, and of the sacrifices and burdens of their families as well.  

    (BTW:  I thought I posted this comment, yet don't see it
    when I check the comments, or my own page--so I'll try to reconstruct & repost.)

    •  I get it. I get that sometimes thank you is the (0+ / 0-)

      only thing you can say. But you're already doing other stuff. And, you're a military family member yourself, supporting more military.

      I really want the civilians that don't know the military folks to know us better.

      Maybe I've just had some really negative experiences with those thank yous. It's bizarre to have someone come up out of know where and thank me. They don't know me. They don't know what I do. They're thankful to the concept of who they think I am. If they really knew how I thought or felt about the war, about how military families are treated in general, they may not want to thank me at all.

      I guess if it begins with the thank you and continues from there, I will be happy. I just need to figure out what to say in response that doesn't sound catty but that takes that thanks to the next step.

      •  I do understand, but the problem is... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LoreleiHI, angelajean

        that if we don't know the strangers, we don't know if they are veterans themselves, or the families or friends of active duty, or veterans, or if they work (or worked) in some capacity with the military or veterans--people who may well feel compelled to acknowledge what's in their heart, but do so with less grace, articulation, or diplomacy than they'd probably like.

        Yes, there are people who are clueless, and who have never known anyone in the military or their families, and who don't understand the sometimes overwhelming stressors of service members or their families.  On the other hand, many people have veterans of current or past wars in their circle of family members or friends, and do at least to a small degree understand--even though they may not know how to better express themselves.  

        The truth is--we civilians could and should all do a better job in supporting our service members and their families, than just merely saying "thank you".  

        We should demand that our leaders not send our military into quagmires.  We should not send our military into war without overwhelming justification, and as a last resort.  When our leaders do send the military into war, we should demand that they do so with a clear unchanging mission,  and a clear exit strategy.  When our leaders fail to do these things, we should hold their feet to the fire.  

        Once we do send our troops into war, we should support them long term--for life--when they come home injured, and not make them have to fight for needed care.  We should support their families as a nation, as communities, and as individuals.  As individuals we could indeed get to know the families, and ask if there is anything we could do to help them, especially when the service member is deployed.  

        •  I want you to diary this: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurious
          The truth is--we civilians could and should all do a better job in supporting our service members and their families, than just merely saying "thank you".  

          We should demand that our leaders not send our military into quagmires.  We should not send our military into war without overwhelming justification, and as a last resort.  When our leaders do send the military into war, we should demand that they do so with a clear unchanging mission,  and a clear exit strategy.  When our leaders fail to do these things, we should hold their feet to the fire.  

          Once we do send our troops into war, we should support them long term--for life--when they come home injured, and not make them have to fight for needed care.  We should support their families as a nation, as communities, and as individuals.  As individuals we could indeed get to know the families, and ask if there is anything we could do to help them, especially when the service member is deployed.  

          That's the thank you we all need to hear, loud and clear. Not just me, but every military member on DailyKos and outside as well. But we don't often here it...

          Thank you for understanding. I hope you're able to convince some other civilians to understand it as well.

          •  I'll try to post a diary around Memorial Day... (0+ / 0-)

            ...when other diaries about service and sacrifice will also be posted--though I can't promise it will get many views, as I've never had a rec llist diary even though I've been here at dKos for a while ;-)

            Seriously, though, I will try, and in addition will try to make more of an effort myself to see how I can better inform others I know.  

            One thing I have found at dKos is that there are a lot of people here who have been, or are in the military, or who are related to service members.  The NFTT diaries as well as the IGTNT diary series are supported by the community and are one effort to make sure that we don't forget.  But, it doesn't hurt to remind people that there is more we can and should do for our service members, and for their families.  

            •  I hope that you do. (0+ / 0-)

              I figured there will we a lot more diaries recced and tipped around that time.  However, we've had some good luck with our group diaries getting at least the community spotlight... especially when they include personal stories, not just explanations. I hope you chose to publish through out group.

              The NFTT diaries are wonderful. But they don't allow for conversation. We need more conversation between the military and civilian members of this group. And not just the short but sweet, Thank You For Your Service :)

  •  I know what you mean (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean

    Not that I'll hear much this year.

    I won't be going out to hear it. Heh. Hermit with no car FTW.

    "Them as can do has to do for them as can't. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices." — Terry Pratchett

    by LoreleiHI on Fri May 06, 2011 at 07:37:47 AM PDT

    •  Isn't that the truth as well, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LoreleiHI

      If we don't go out to the thank you events, we won't hear the thanks :)

      Well, I'll say thank you to LoreleiHI for being a great military spouse, for doing all you can to support your spouse, for hanging in there when things get tough, and for knowing when enough is enough. And for all those phone calls you've made and people you've talked to, not to help you, but to help your lost military member who can't find her way. Thank you for all that you do.

      Thank you also for being a part of this community, for helping to expand the definition of military spouse to include those of us that don't fit the 'perfect model,' and for helping me feel like I belong.

      •  damn it, now I'm crying (0+ / 0-)

        I don't go out because I was shut out by the other military spouses, so what's the use? I'm not that perfect military wife. Sure, yes, I did the damned fund raising, I was a POC, I showed up to every FRG meeting, I did the damned fucking work... but when my spouse switched companies (as planned, they didn't have enough 25B/Us), they dropped me like a stone.

        I was a POC for one company, my spouse was with another... there were blackouts, but I didn't find out what was going on until the FRG leader (former AD Army) for the company I was POC'ing for would find out FOR me, because they wouldn't talk to the damned dyke.

        So thank you for not being like that. So far you're the only 'official' military spouse who wasn't either also military or former military who was not... mean. Well, besides that FRG leader's mother. :) Props to her, too.

        "Them as can do has to do for them as can't. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices." — Terry Pratchett

        by LoreleiHI on Fri May 06, 2011 at 11:11:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Believe it or not... I'm not the only one. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LoreleiHI

          However, today, I feel like I am. I've decided that I don't like military spouse appreciation day very much. I'm feeling sorry for myself that I'm not that perfect military wife and the irony is that I never really ever wanted to be her in the first place.

          What a sad day. All I really want is to get us out of Afghanistan and then I can go back to being 'normal' again.

  •  And for Mothers Day Military Moms (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean

    Moms serving our country or military moms at home while their loves are deployed

    Military Moms on Mothers Day

  •  I just liked it when they noticed me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean

    Angie,
    thx for your service and your hubby's.  It's tough being a wife.  I'm with you.

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