The Best Way To “Thank a Vet” On Veteran’s Day

I’ve always been a bit perplexed about how to respond when somebody thanks me for my service to our country. The cynical side of me is thinking: “Why are you thanking me?” Then, after a second or two, I realize I shouldn’t be so critical and I move on to thinking: “Dan, just say thank you and tell them it was your honor to serve.”
That response: “It was my honor to serve” has been my “go to” response for the past few years. It is a very good “go to”. It establishes my intentions for wanting to serve and makes the recipient of the comment feel connected to me. But, again, this response also seems incomplete.

What I really want to say in response to the “thank you for your service” statement is this:

“I volunteered to serve. I joined for adventure, professional growth, a chance to lead, to make a difference in the world, and oh yeah!, to serve our country and defend our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. If you are thanking me, you must feel a kinship to our Constitution as well; yes? Then let me ask you – have you read it? Do you know what it really contains? And finally- are you okay with the fact that we have people in elected public office that have literally trampled all over OUR Constitution?!? I served and sacrificed so that the principles of that document would be defended and preserved. Your “thanks” to me are an indication that you agreed with my service and the principles of OUR Constitution. But if you really want to thank me (and all veterans who defended the Constitution) — then please vote somebody into office that will honestly uphold the principles of that document.“
That’s what I’d really like to say the next time someone says “thanks for your service”.

When thanking a veteran, please complete the thought. I recommend we say: “thank you for supporting and defending our Constitution and our way of life.” Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate the gratitude and positive attention given to me and my fellow vets (yes, I’m old enough to remember how the military was viewed in the late 60’s and 70’s). But please don’t make that gratitude a Pavlovian response without thought. The men and women who wrote a blank check to Uncle Sam for up to, and including loss of life, did so with a great deal of thought.
Thank you for reading and thank you to all my fellow vets who have defended and supported our Constitution!
Major Dan Pantaleo is a retired Marine Corps officer who currently serves a keynote speaker for a variety of events and functions. His website is www.danpantaleo.com