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You really want to thank me for my service? Here’s how

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thank you for your service
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Berogan/Released)

Since the Global War on Terrorism, aka The Long War began, the phrase, “Thank you for your service” has been routinely heard by service members and veterans. The grateful citizens who utter their appreciation don’t know what else to say, or to do. The sentiment is genuine but leaves the recipient feeling a bit awkward. How does one properly respond? You’re welcome? That doesn’t seem to fit. A few veterans don’t feel worthy of such thanks, especially when they think of comrades wounded or lost in Iraq or Afghanistan. They need not hold on to that perspective though, as all who have served have routinely made small sacrifices along the way. They may not seem significant at the time, but cumulatively across the force they contribute to the defense of our way of life. There are many routine, mundane, and dreary tasks carried out by service members on a daily basis that go unnoticed. Things like duty, field day, and a whole host of not-mandatory-but-if-you-don’t-do-it-you-will-find-yourself-working-this-weekend type of activities. Keeping these things in mind, listed below are 5 ways you can really thank a veteran for their service.

1. Provide a security guard at their home

For all of the times the veteran had to stand duty, pay them back by providing a security guard at their home. They inordinately seemed to have duty on weekends and holidays, so in compensation do likewise for their home. Make sure the security guard is missing a family event. Focus your efforts on those particular holidays that result in the neighbors throwing loud parties late into the night. The security guard will be required to bang on their door and tell the boisterous drunks to keep it down. He would also have the authority to take random people out of their homes on the cul-de-sac and force them to pick up litter in the neighborhood. You must check on the security guard at least twice during their 24 hour shift and inspect a green logbook. When they are relieved from their shift at 0800 Monday morning, send them directly to their day job with no time for recovery. 

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph P. Leveille)

2. Provide a cleaning service in their home

This effort will have to be scaled depending on the particular veteran’s branch of service. For the Navy vets who cleaned the ship daily, it will require a crew to show up every day. In addition to regular cleaning they will be required to polish all of the bright work. A smaller crew will have to be on hand a few times each day as sweepers. Marine veterans will only require the cleaning crew once a week (Thursdays) to coincide with field day. This will require the cleaners to take all of the furniture out of the house, to clean the deck and baseboards, then return all of the furniture to the house. No one can use the showers until inspection Friday morning. Beer is authorized during the work detail. All participants should be attired in silkies and a green skivvy shirt.

3. Provide a landscaper for their home

You will have to do some research to identify a properly skilled landscaper for veteran services. Forget mulching and flowers. What you need is a crew that can paint rocks and sweep rain in addition to grass cutting and weed eating. Sidewalks should be bordered by knee-high, upright, wooden posts connected with hemp rope. The posts will be painted in accordance with the service colors. Navy veterans can have painted chains instead of rope. The coup de grace on this endeavor will be the neatly stacked and filled sand bags that will be used to create borders and edges to this martial haven.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Skyler Okerman/Released)

4. Provide an orthopedic mattress & pillow

Veterans have lost countless hours (and days!) of sleep during their service while keeping the wolf at bay. Many times when they were able to snatch a few hours of sleep it was poor quality. The Army and Marines slept in the dirt. The Navy had jets taking off and anchors dropping, in addition to a plethora of bells and whistles. Sometimes the Air Force had to endure un-fluffed pillows in their hotels! The least you could do to compensate these warriors is to provide them with an orthopedic mattress and pillow. The good news is the mattress outlet is always having a sale. If you are feeling especially patriotic throw in a white noise machine and some aroma therapy.

5. Send them $20 from every one of your paychecks for a year

There’s a nasty, little, open secret in the military. It’s called the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Every year some junior officer or Staff NCO gets put in charge of the CFC for their unit. The requirement is 100% contact, meaning everyone has to be briefed on the opportunity to contribute to the program. The program is established to solicit donations from individuals to charitable causes.  Personnel are given a catalogue with and endless list of organizations to choose from. The intent communicated is “give to whomever you want, but give something.”

Many personnel choose something close to their heart such as the Wounded Warrior Project or the Semper Fi Fund. Others give to obscure things such as the Save the Left-Finned Dolphin Society of Nebraska. Commands are recognized when their units contribute in a significant manner. Thus, often what the troops hear is “You don’t have to give, but you don’t have to go on liberty this afternoon either.” The young service member then thinks, “It’s not enough to put my life on the line, I also need to give twenty bucks a payday.” To recognize this monetary sacrifice you can recompense the veteran by agreeing to send them $20 from every one of your paychecks for the next 12 months. Next year you can pick a new veteran to support.

There you have it folks. Listed above are 5 relevant ways you can thank a veteran for their service. Whether they were called to combat or not, they wore the uniform and they were on standby for years. In the meantime they all stood duty, cleaned things, lost sleep, and begrudgingly dug into their own pockets. If you tangibly thank them with one of these acts of service they just might then feel comfortable with the response, “You’re welcome. You’re welcome for my service.”