Headline: Don’t Say “Thank You For Your Service” This Monday

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.   —Abraham Lincoln

T his morning, I opened my computer to an NPR post entitled: Don’t Say “Thank You For Your Service” This Monday. Seriously? Though Memorial Day exists to commemorate our fallen soldiers, it doesn’t lessen the importance and continued presence of those soldiers who survived the horrors of war. The NPR post suggests that the expression, “thank you for your service” has become a platitude. Instead, we should quietly consider the fact that the soldier before us may have lost comrades in battle and should avoid being so insensitive as to acknowledge them on so somber a holiday.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Platitude? Thanking a soldier for her service is intimately and broadly respectful. It is an acknowledgement of commitment to duty, exposure to loss, and service to something greater than one’s self. To acknowledge a living soldier is to pay respect to those who have fallen in the service of their country. The expression as well as the loss is only meaningless if we allow it to exist without meaning. If we reject the acknowledgement as insincere, or relegate it to a collection of platitudes, we are projecting our own cynicism upon what most intend respectfully and share with the awkward hesitation reserved for the moments in which words are not enough. Sometimes, its the best we can do and it’s worth doing even if it falls short of some ideal.

Today, I challenge you to thank any serviceman or servicewoman you encounter with a warm “thank you for your service” while remembering those who have fallen to protect our freedoms. Avoid the cynicism offered by those who see darkness where there is light. Reject the notion that an individual’s service or sacrifice is lessened by the bad judgment of politicians or the doubts of fellow citizens and embrace the simple idea “that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”


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