I was at Chipotle the other day and while I was filling up my iced tea a woman passed by and said, “Thank you for your service!” While I shouldn’t have been caught off guard, admittedly I didn’t have on the forefront of my mind that I was in uniform. Instead, I was preoccupied with how fast I needed to inhale my chicken bowl, so I could get back at it. I smiled and said, “Thanks for your support!” and then realized that her words unexpectedly elevated my spirit.
It wasn’t that I was in a bad mood. I just hadn’t thought of anything I had done so far that day as service; it was just basically work. But as she expressed that familiar phrase, it struck me how unique our role as military members in society really is. Who else gets random expressions of gratitude like that? If you have a civilian job, do you get random people thanking you for being an accountant, a barista, or a mechanic? (You never hear it if you’re a dentist!) They may say “thank you” but they don’t say “thank you for your service.”
In my case, I’ve been a reservist for just over four years with no prior military experience. March ARB is my first duty station and I barely squeaked past the age limit for my AFSC and entered at 39 years old. I drill once a month like many of you, so most of my time is spent as a civilian. And for years I was the one saying, “Thank you for your service,” always with that twinge of regret for not being among those I so admired.
So, take it from a guy whose spent most of his life outside the military: Never let that sentiment get old. You and I possess the matchless privilege of being image-bearers of courage, honor, and service. Even if you think you do the most mundane task in the military, you are doing something meaningful with your life. Not everyone can make that claim.
You might be reading this and if you’re honest, you’ve gotten a little cynical. You’re being pushed harder than ever and maybe no one really knows all that you’ve sacrificed and how tired you are. The connection between the “what” and “why” of your job has been severed for quite some time, and more often than not your “service” just feels like “work.” I get it. Not every day is not going to bring tears of joy to your eyes. But the fact is there are thousands of men and women out there who would trade places with you in a heartbeat, but they can’t. Because for whatever reason, they don’t qualify; or when push comes to shove they just don’t have it in them. You do.
So, as Veterans Day approaches, wherever you fit in this amazing Air Force of ours, thank you for your service. As for me, I am humbled to be counted among you.