- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had a tie for comment of the day. Here’s the other one, from "Colturk," which you might have missed because it was the 101st filed on the original "yellow ribbon" essay:
You ask how it feels when some says "Thanks for serving", or words to that effect. Well, it depends and I can only speak for myself.
The big banners "Support our Troops" on a box store: disgusting.
A manager at a restaurant picking up the bill: a bit embarrassing, to be honest.
A stranger saying, "Thanks for serving" while I’m at the grocery store on the way home from work: that’s a little more complicated, but they mean well if only for a moment, which is what makes it complicated. Rather than interrogating them about how they voted and are they donating to veterans groups, I have parsed my response down to this: "It’s an honor to serve."
Given the abundance of gray hair, I get a lot of parents see me as someone their own age and tell me their son or daughter is serving, and that causes a longer conversation. As an officer, I feel it’s my duty to stand in the aisle or stay at a table and listen to their story as long as they want to talk. I don’t try to reassure them their children are going to be safe or we are fighting a good fight. I let them talk to a guy in a uniform until they get done and hope they feel less strained, if only for a few minutes. When that’s done, I don’t feel much at all. It’s a duty.
When a Gold Star mother tells me, "Thanks," and then holds me for ten minutes while she sobs in a terminal at Denver International Airport: I am overwhelmed.