I don’t know of anyone that joined the military just so they could be thanked for their service. Most of us joined for the reasons you see in the commercials. We wanted to see the world or earn money for college or just serve our country. With that being said, when we are thanked, it is awesome. It seriously makes my entire week, and it’s like I’m walking on a cloud.
There are a couple instances that really stand out in my mind. Once, I didn’t have time to change before my daughter’s karate class, so I took her in my uniform. As we were leaving, a woman told me to stop. Then she crossed a busy parking lot with her son to shake my hand. Before she left, her son stepped forward and very quietly said, “thank you, sir.” Tears pretty much sprang instantly into my eyes. It was a special kind of awesome.
The most memorable instance occurred when I had to stop by the grocery store on the way home from work. I was walking around looking for the trail mix when I heard a scream. I turned to see what it was, and I noticed a woman running towards me. When she stopped about 5 feet away, I had no idea what to expect. She told me, “I swore to myself that the next time I saw someone in the service, I would thank them!” I thought it was cool, so I extended my arm for a handshake. Much to my surprise, I got a full body hug instead. It was complete with a leg thrown over my hip and everything. It was a little uncomfortable, but it sure put a smile on my face.
So, here’s my public service announcement. If you run across a service man this Veteran’s Day weekend, just give them a quick thank you. We absolutely understand that it’s an awkward situation to approach someone you don’t know. This is compounded with someone in the military. We wear uniforms with ribbons and medals on them. We have shiny shoes and short haircuts. It can be intimidating, and we know that. Here’s the kicker, though. As weird as it is for you, it’s just as awkward for us. We never know how to respond. Telling someone “thank you” for saying thank you isn’t quite right, and saying “your welcome” seems too cocky. Most of the time, you’ll get something like “I appreciate it” and a terrific smile that will remain there long after you leave.
With the understanding that it’s awkward for us well, give something a try. If you see a sailor, soldier, marine, or airman, see how big of a blush you can put on his or her face. Give them a full body hug that they’ll remember forever. Run across the store screaming at them. They might seem uncomfortable on the outside, but their heart is shining on the inside. If all of that is a little extravagant for you, just walk up and politely say thank you. You will absolutely make someone’s day.