Thanking the veteran you know is a nice gesture, but misses the mark. The veteran you know most likely has found gainful employment. He has a stable home life, wife and children who love him. He isn’t worried about next months rent check bouncing, or skipping meals because there isn’t enough money to pay for food for the last couple days of the pay period.
A former Marines Perspective
When someone thanks me for my service it is appreciated, but unnecessary. Out of an 8 year contract, I spent 2 years 8 months on active duty. This including being activated after 9/11 and the last time we decided to go play in the Iraqi sandbox. It was a horribly hard for me and my family, I will carry scars and shrapnel with me for the rest of my life. However I had sworn an oath to serve. And that is what I did.
Now however life is much different. While I carry forward many USMC traits, the hardships that I faced back then are far and distant memories. When someone “thanks me for my service” I appreciate the gesture, however it misses the mark by many years.
When I really needed someone to thank me for my service
When I got back from my initial training in the mid 90’s and was so hungry I would flirt with the girls at Taco Bell to get free food, and couldn’t even pay my rent. I needed thanks and support then.
When I told the owner of the Reseller I worked at after 9/11 that it was likely I would be activated, and he laid me off for my honestly. (Yes I know that is illegal, however suing your employer never works out well). Sadly this situation happened to many of my friends in the reserves. We all went from six figure jobs in Silicon Valley to nothing.
When the landlords of my apartment tried to evict my wife from her one bedroom apartment while I was deployed. I needed the thanks and support.
When Bush hung a banner saying mission accomplished, and six months later I got to come home. To no job, mounting bills, a wife and small child looking to me to figure out what to do. I could have really used the thanks and support then.
A few people giving thanks and support when it was needed made a HUGE difference.
When got back from my first activation in 97′ I was starving, about to be homeless and down to my last straw. I was walking to Taco Bell (Where I used to flirt with the girls to get free food) to put in an application so i wouldn’t get evicted from my apartment. As I was walking up to the store a car pulled up in the drive through, and recognized me. We had worked together in High School, he was in the Army National Gard and I had joined the Marines. I told him about my situation and it turns out he managed the systems build team at a local Value Added Reseller. Two days later I had a job on the midnight shift building PC’s. Him thanking me for my service resulted in me not living on the streets. More so without that CHANCE to prove myself I would not be in the technology field today.
The second person who gave thanks and support when it was drastically needed is Ed Chen. I had done a bit of consulting with his group at Openwave Systems over the years before my activation for Iraq. When the owner of the VAR I was working for laid me off just prior to activation Ed was a great friend and kept his ear open for an permanent opening at Openwave the year I got back to the real world. Ed kept me in his thoughts for the year I was gone. Once I was back and adjusted to the real world he had teed up an opening with his boss for me running the VOIP systems worldwide. His thanks and support made a huge difference in me and my families life.
What you should do to show thanks
As we wind down our military from the wars of the past decade here are a large number of Veterans re-integrating themselves into civilian life. For a hardened military veteran this is possible one of the hardest transitions to make successfully. When you see that Vet living on the street, that is a person who didn’t make it.
The single most valuable thing you can do to say thanks to a Veteran is to give one a chance. We all have openings in our mail rooms, pulling cables, racking servers and switches. These low level jobs are a perfect entry point for these new Veterans integrating back into the real world. Given the chance many of them will work extra hard to learn and grow, and pay you back ten-fold on your investment. Someone gave thanks and gave me a chance. I encourage you to do the same and thank that Veteran that you don’t know.