Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Hating that yellow ribbon (IV): Here are the ways one officer handles it

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 ...

applez/flickr
applez/flickr
applez/flickr

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.

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.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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