It started slowly. Back in 2003, when military folks walked through an airport in uniform (especially in a group), civilian passengers would applaud, and calls of “Thank you for your service!” came from every direction. If you were a veteran, and wearing an item of military memorabilia (we tend to have far too many old unit T-Shirts, baseball caps, jackets, etc., and that’s leaving out the blazer lapel pins or hat pins, even cuff links), the same expression of gratitude was often offered.
Some of us, those who served in one or more of “those” units (the ones whose former members mostly only talk to each other about the old days, and although we probably have just as much junk as any other veteran, we tend not to wear it – It’s put carefully away in a footlocker or duffel bag – The “I Love Me” wall in our home office or man cave is where we display our shiny stuff). We don’t wear it because it’s more trouble than it is worth to do so…One tends to get stopped multiple times, even during a trip to the grocery store, by someone who has read a book or two, or has a relative who served in one of “those” units, and “did you know so-and-so?”
So I probably get a lot less of those “Thank you for your service” expressions of gratitude than others who walk around festooned with militaria, and that’s fine with me – Like most of the rest of our small community I can usually recognize one of my own, even when he’s wearing overalls and a Cowboy hat. Something about the eyes, the pattern of movement, the obvious situational awareness…It just shows. And 9 times out of ten, when we recognize one another, we just nod and grin – Unless it’s an old buddy you actually served WITH, in which case all other activity is brought to an immediate halt and the nearest watering hole located.
When I DO get those expressions of gratitude, though, I’ve always simply replied “Thank you. It was my privilege.”, and gone about my business.
Over the years since 2003, though, I’ve noticed a growing pattern of veterans who actually get ANGRY when someone thanks them for their service, and I just don’t understand why. Even it it’s not sincere, even if it’s dripping with sarcasm, it’s nothing but a gesture of recognition that you’re one of those guys who signed that blank check for everything up to and including your life, there’s nothing offensive about it. Sure, a lot of us carry around some unhealthy anger we should have left behind long ago, and some of us can’t get past it (which is sad – Living in the past is like invoking the devil, you’re practically inviting PTSD into your front door and handing it a glass dark with liquor), but that little expression of recognition, if not sincere gratitude? That’s what you want today’s case of the a** to be about?
Well, there are a hell of a lot of things I don’t understand and probably never will – Just add that one to the list, I suppose. I only bring it up because I witnessed first hand today a fellow perhaps ten, twelve years younger than I am hiss “go f*** yourself” to a perfectly polite young lady who noticed his baseball cap (black, with giant white jump wings embroidered across the front) and said, quite sincerely, “Thank you for your service, sir.”
It is his good fortune that in my waning years I’ve become (via a lot of introspection and hard work, and a firm resolution to keep the door tightly shut against any more PTSD than I’ve already suffered, I’ve had my share, TYVM, pass that plate right on down the line) the Not-So-Bad Man. The Very-Very-Not-The-One-Bad-Man I was in years gone by would have schooled that fellow thoroughly, but I didn’t even spare the fellow a glance, merely told the young lady “Miss, I don’t know where he left his manners today, but don’t let what he said bother you – Don’t give it a second’s thought. Whatever it is he’s miserable about has absolutely nothing to do with you, he just saw you as a target of opportunity and let fly with his filthy mouth. Are you OK?”
Her face changed immediately from shock to thoughtful, and though I was wearing slacks and a dress shirt with no tie, my haircut, of course, gives me away every time.
“Were you in the military?” She asked.
“No Ma’am,” I replied, “I just have an awful barber. You take care now.”
Signing off this net for now, though I’ll no doubt be back on later – 0300 deployment of new software coming up, so I’d better grab a nap while I can.