Me: Thank you for your service. Young Veteran: F@ck you…

I was confused… did I say something wrong? 

The first time I got this response was about five years ago, maybe at a bar, maybe at one of my many hospitality jobs. Maybe it was during a casual conversation: an “oh, I didn’t know you were in the Marines?”. However it happened, no similar interaction will ever be the same. 

Something about it is so polarizing. How is it that a humble showing of genuine appreciation can result in such an undesired response? I’ve seen many from afar throw money in place of verbal gratitude, and whether it be free drinks at a bar with a handshake and short convo to follow or picking up a bill anonymously, it always goes over well. Additionally there is never a shortage of willing (and usually older) veterans to be honored and applauded during our local Nashville Predators intermissions. 

There must be something deeper. 

Is it the case that veterans no longer choose the armed forces for the same reasons as in years past? Is it the case that awareness and an individual sense of morality play a larger role in the posthumous view of time served? Are these words somehow a trigger for emotional distress or a reminder of unmet and well-deserved needs following this certain sacrifice? Is there a scarring involving historically subjective wars and our part in them? Do they simply not want to be thanked? 

Or is it the case that civilians have lost touch? Have we ourselves been jaded or misrepresented, grouped into the aftermath of Vietnam protests and the like? Is our involvement and understanding reduced to media portrayals of war and our troops? Are we doing enough for our brothers and sisters? 

I’ll be honest, I have no idea as I’m searching for answers in what seems to be a multi-layered and case-by-case issue. The aforementioned questions are merely that: questions in search of answers. 

I’ve watched as many documentaries and read enough books as the next guy, hungry to empathize and inform my personal artistry with what is the most emotionally strenuous situation one can face. Much like school, however, this isolated learning has not provided the real-word practicality I seek. 

I’ll always pursue empathy and gratitude for those who protect our freedoms and future. I may, however, change the method in which I express such things.

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