Every November marks Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day) in the U.K.  There are the traditional parades, ceremonies, memorial events; and lots of articles promoting Veterans Day. That's a good thing. Occasionally, I read articles on the topics of interest to veterans and in reference to veterans day. Lately, there have been several blogs and comments asking what veterans' think of Veterans Day and the commonly used statement, "Thank you for your service." Some of the comments left behind by individuals claiming to be vets, along with a few non-vets are positive messages while a few are not so positive comments. So let me add my two cents to the discussion.

Marine Vietnam veteran embraces Staff Sgt. Tim ChambersCredit: Cpl. Scott Schmidt

I do understand that there are a few veterans that question the sincerity of the message; I'm not one of them. I am a veteran, and I thank you for your kind sentiment. In fact, I don't know any older vets that don't appreciate hearing those words. There may be some younger vets that, for whatever reason I can't fathom, question, doubt, disregard these well-wishing words. I seriously doubt that there are very many that harbor those negative feelings.

Many of my friends and old acquaintances served in or during the Vietnam War (or as its official name: The Vietnam Conflict), others during the Persian Gulf War Era. Even now, it’s estimated that there are nearly 2.6 million U.S. military veterans. This number does not even take into consideration all the veterans of nations that stood with the U.S. in conflicts during and since World War II.

Speaking of World War II in particular, returning veterans were appreciated by the public at large. There was, however, a strain on the economic front when all the warriors returned to a lack of jobs and an industrial infrastructure that had to re-gear itself out of a war-supply production mentality. Returning veterans of the Korean War and Vietnam War were treated quite poorly in comparison. Some of you might be old enough to remember those days. Maybe you witnessed the treatment of veterans or you might be a Vietnam Era Vet yourself. Veterans were spit on, swore at, called vial names, accused of heinous war crimes, and ignored by some of their family members and childhood friends.

8th Infantry Rgt. descending Hill 742 during Operation MacArthurCredit: US Army, 1967 ; Uploaded by BrokenSphereEven after the official end of the war in 1975, service members were advised not to wear their uniforms in public when possible. In 1976, a year after the “official” end of that war, I walked into a local restaurant with some of my buddies (we were in uniform) to grab some lunch. We sat down at a table in the middle of the room. You would have thought we were some sort of grotesque group of oddities by the way people looked at us. There were no smiles, no thank you for your service, no handshakes, no smiles – just a room full of uncomfortable faces trying not to stare.

This past Veterans Day, like many older vets, I wore my Retired U.S. Army hat. I went on my daily walk at the local park. I barely made it to the trail to start my walk when a woman and her husband stopped me and said those words: "Thank you for your service." I thanked them for their kind words and wished them a fine day. I did not assume that they were insincere – just going through the motions expected this day. There was no one around to hear them besides me; no political-correct police enforcing or forcing them to say those words. As far as I'm concerned, they meant what they said – I could see it in their eyes.

Heroes and Healing

These days, current military personnel and veterans are treated as national heroes, respected for their sacrifices, recognized as positive role models and appreciated for their commitment to the nation and their families. This is a good thing; not something to question, discourage and debate or ridicule. It's a good thing – and, at least in my case and those of my veteran friends and family members, we thank you for taking the time to acknowledge us in a positive manner. I thank all of you that took the time to care enough to say something positive to any veteran. Just be patient with the younger veterans; some wounds take longer to heal.