A Message On Thanking Veterans
Read a message from Wreaths Across America's Executive Director, Karen Worcester.

A Message On Thanking Veterans

Thank you for your service …

In a time of great division in our country, I think we can all agree on the debt we owe those who have served in our nation’s military.

While carrying out our mission at Wreaths Across America, we work year-round to share stories of bravery and sacrifice to both honor those that serve, and teach the next generation through their example. And like so many organizations and individuals, we encourage thanking veterans at every opportunity. It has become almost a tradition to greet a veteran with a familiar, “thank you for your service.”  It’s also quite common to get the reply, “Thanks, but I was just doing my job…”

I have spent a good amount of time thinking and researching a more personal way to interact respectfully with veterans that I have the honor to meet. I sincerely never want a gesture that makes me feel like I’m honoring them to sound like lip service.

Here are a couple paragraphs from an article written by James Kelley USMC in 2019 for AMU/ EDGE that made me take pause.

“If you’d like to show your appreciation but want to avoid the cliché, what’s the solution? Veteran-recommended alternatives to “Thank you for your service”:

Ask me what I did. What was my job in the military? Take a deeper interest in my sacrifices. If you run into a vet that doesn’t want to talk about it, ask what he or she is doing now. Are they going to school? Where do they work now that they are out? Help destroy the anonymity that many vets feel.

When I asked veterans how civilians should thank them for their service, one answer proved to be the most common: “VOTE!” Volunteer in your community, try and make a difference, and vote for what you believe is right. Honor the actions of veterans by ensuring that your voice is heard at the ballot box. Educate yourself on veterans’ issues. There are a number of fantastic organizations that help veterans with real issues but the most impactful is to use your right to make your voice heard.” 

My takeaway is that I will still continue to say “thank you for your service,” but whenever the opportunity arises, I will expand the conversation. I will also remind myself that perhaps the best way to thank those who have fought for freedom is to remember and live up to the WAA theme for 2022 which is to find a way to serve as well as a favorite from a few years ago, which is to be an American worth fighting for.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” - John F. Kennedy