Veterans Day is fast approaching, and with it comes a gathering storm of American civilian “Thank you for your service” platitudes so relentless that they threaten the structural integrity of the very veteran eardrums receiving them.
For many who have donned the uniform, the phrase elicits myriad awkward responses. Some vets simply have no reply chambered and instead offer nonsensical returns like “You too,” “Thanks for your support” or “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve,” before launching into a “Stomp the Yard” dance routine.
And while authentic sentiment and genuine gratitude no doubt have merit, “Thank you for your service” has lost its appeal to many who served in America’s 21st-century wars.
But precisely how much today’s veterans shun the phrase has remained largely unquantified — at least until now.
Thanks to a survey produced and sourced over September and October by USAA, Endeavor Analytics and YouGov, there exists concrete evidence that veterans are indeed tired of the withering barrage of thanks.
All told, half of the 1,639 veterans and military personnel surveyed said “Thank you for your service” makes them feel downright “uncomfortable or awkward.”
That number, however, climbs to nearly 70 percent when it comes to veterans between the ages of 18 and 29. Only veterans 65 and over responded that the phrase is favorably received.
On the civilian side, meanwhile, one recent proposition to inject new life into the tired phrase was to alter the language in a way that ... well, quite frankly, would only exacerbate the cringe.
Bergman, a retired Marine Reserve three-star general who oozes medically concerning amounts of motivation, said at the time that the “resolution will help ensure those of us blessed to call America home understand the personal importance of our servicemen and women’s sacrifice for our Nation.”
Though Bergman’s legislation had virtually no chance of becoming law, his particular example of unbridled, all-inclusive appreciation is one of many that have helped spawn the notorious “Vet Bro,” a mythical Florida Man of the military draped in tactical gear, Punisher stickers, and shirts replete with eye-melting slogans and sleeves elongated during manufacturing just to accommodate colossal flag prints.
Are there adequate alternatives to “Thank you for your service,” opportunities to connect beyond small talk, to educate, to honor those who embodied selfless service? Surely. Such one-on-one connections could even help close the perceived chasm between American troops and civilians. Better understanding between those who serve and those who take an oath to protect seems more needed now than ever before.
After all, the USAA survey notes that more than a quarter of civilians polled indicated they had no clue why Veterans Day was even celebrated.
Thank you for your survey.
Army Times reporter Davis Winkie contributed to this story.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.