‘Thank You for Your Service’

At Bloomberg, Elizabeth Samet is disturbed the spectacle of thanking military veterans for their service:

Conscience-easing expressions of gratitude by politicians and citizens cloak with courtesy the often bloody, wounding nature of a soldier’s service. Today’s dominant narrative, one that favors sentimentality over scrutiny, embodies a fantasy that everything will be okay if only we display enough flag-waving enthusiasm.

My thoughts from a few years ago are published at Tom Ricks’ blog.

Nowadays I’m more empathetic to the notion of giving thanks solely for offering one’s own life in defense of others. Some people surely do mean to isolate their thanks to this theoretical sacrifice and do not extend it to walking around in circles in Iraq trying not to get blown up for nothing. That said, I’ve met plenty of assholes who are clearly happy to have sent me off to die and in my flawed human memory, they tend to overshadow the more reserved folks.

I am also concerned that the contributions of all nonmilitary government employees are diminished by the militaristic practice of thanking only military veterans. Without the service of civilian employees in unrelated departments of government (and others in the nonprofit sector), there wouldn’t be much for military servicemembers to defend. I find it nonsensical that “serving your country” has come to be synonymous with military service alone. Missing the forest for the trees.

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