While I was still in the Navy, I was once asked: “What does the phrase ‘thank you for your service’ mean to you?”
I have since been out of the Navy now for 18 months after 12 years of service, but still, receive the same salutation based on my Veteran status.
Regardless of my military service, I have always been one to shun the praise bestowed upon me. So, I tried to approach the answer to that question with an unbridled approach.
Being recognized for our position in an organization that consists .04% of the population but serves the entirety is a welcome gesture. It is a service. Whether you’re turning wrenches below sea level next to the most powerful diesel engine on the planet or ordering parts for those wrench turners to keep the ship in prime condition, or even taking photos of those wrench turners to give the American public a better understanding of what their Navy does, it’s service. We, as servicemembers, are in the service industry. The service we provide is the most valuable service any American can provide: defense of liberty and uninhibited freedom. I would say the better question is, what does one mean when they say “Thank you for your service?” The appropriate acknowledgment is not for those who are being acknowledged to decide. That recognition should come from an educated or at least an informed position. What are you thanking us for? “Thank you for your service” or any similar phrase used in a gesture of admiration or appreciation should be accompanied by a true understanding of where said appreciation is coming from. For those who are unsure of what their Servicemembers do, or what exactly they should be thankful for, should approach the situation in an open, learning mindset. I would expect a person who genuinely feels grateful for the “service” the United States military provides, but has no knowledge of what that service entails, to attempt to become educated through the eyes of the servicemember they choose to recognize. In short: “Thank you for your service” is a completely acceptable acknowledgment and gesture of gratitude if it comes from one who grasps the true meaning. For those who wish to pay homage, but lack the prerequisite knowledge and understanding, the proper vernacular would not be a common phrase, it would be the initiation of education and hopefully the comprehension of why we should or should not be thanked.