What Should Civilians Say to Combat Veterans?

Army Staff Sgt. Adam A. Wontrop, a member of the 744th Ordnance Company’s explosive ordnance disposal team from Clarksville, Tenn., tries to uncover some of a command wire located by soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson / Army

“Thank you for your service” is a phrase commonly heard by many in the military. Yet, some combat veterans are uncomfortable when that gratitude is expressed – unless they perceive it as genuine. Here’s an explanation that I found on Military.com.

By McLean Bennett – Knight Ridder/Tribune

Lucas Johnson doesn’t want well-wishers thanking him for his military service in Afghanistan. The reason is that most people simply can’t understand what he’s been through in that war-torn, destitute land halfway around the world from Wisconsin.

But on a dreary, cloudy Friday morning at downtown Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park — just three days after he returned from a deployment with the U.S. Army’s bomb squad — someone approached Johnson with what he felt was a genuine thank-you.

“Thank you for protecting our country,” said a diminutive Flint Parisi, a 5-year-old kindergartner from Altoona. The two shook hands, and the battle-tested soldier showed Flint his Army helmet, which dwarfed the youngster’s small head.

“When a kid, a child, walks up to me and says, ‘Thank you for serving our country,’ I like that,” said Johnson, 25.

You can read the full article HERE.

My questions to all military members, veterans and their families:

  • How do you want civilians to acknowledge your service?
  • When is it appropriate to thank you and when is it not?
  • What is the most memorable exchange you’ve had with a stranger?
  • What comments have been hurtful or thoughtless?

My questions for civilians:

  • How do you greet members of the military who are strangers?
  • Do you avoid greeting military members because you don’t know what to say?
  • Describe your most memorable interaction with a military member.

Add  a comment below or send me a direct email at bobrien@wusf.org.

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One Response

  1. I have gone out of my way to shake a hand and thank a military member I see or hear. I sincerely mean thank you. I anonymously paid for a service member and his family’s meal at a restaurant. The waitress was floored and said thanks. I think she knew them.

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