Tuesday, May 27, 2014

To absent friends

This isn't a post about job hunting, or career change. It's a post about gratitude.

Yesterday (Monday) was Memorial Day here in the US. It's a day set aside in memory of those who gave their lives in defense of our country. It's a bit strange to people in many other countries, because most of the rest of the world celebrates that on the 11th of November. If that sounds familiar to you Americans, it's because that's the day we call Veteran's Day, and we celebrate and thank all those who have served, living or dead.

There's a sort of schizophrenia involved for most Americans where Memorial Day is concerned. It's the unofficial start of "summertime," so the instinct is to celebrate with picnics and parades. That may be the cause of the confusion. We want it to be a celebratory day. Many stores have sales, towns have parades, and almost everyone who knows a veteran will take time to thank them for their service. As a veteran, I appreciate the sentiment, and I'm grateful for the support. I know it's meant kindly, which is why it would be churlish of me to offer a correction.

As a veteran, I'm very lucky, especially given the fact that our country has been involved in armed conflict for the past 13 years. I've never been exposed to direct combat. Yes, I've been in places where someone could have shot at me, if they wanted to, but no one ever has. The number of people I know personally who made the ultimate sacrifice is, in round numbers, zero. But I do have close friends who have lost close friends, and I know that the well-meaning but misguided thanks offered bothers them more than they'll admit.

So I'm going to say it here, the churlish thing. Not for myself, but for those who can't, and for those who won't.

Thank you for your kind sentiments, but you're thanking the wrong person. This day is for the ones you can't directly thank, because they're the ones who never came home. Take a moment, while you're grilling your burgers. Think of them, when you're raising a beer, and drink a toast to them.

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