This year is the first year I am a true veteran on Veteran’s Day. My tenure on active duty with the US Navy ended in December of 2013.
In the military those who choose not to reenlist are said to be “getting out” or have “gotten out.” Often this takes the form of “Are you getting out or are you staying in?” being asked by all manner of people: career advisers, civilian friends and coworkers and fellow service members.
“Getting out” is a term I have been thinking about this past week and I have decided I do not like the phrase. It has a negative connotation about military service. Is active duty service something someone who hasn’t done it can 100% relate to? No. It is an “in or out” club. However, I do not think choosing to leave active duty should be referred to “getting out.”
When you read or hear about people who grow up in rough circumstances they often talk about how they “got away from it all” or “they got out”. People also “get out of prison” after their time has been served. Military service is not the same. While you are under contract and sign most of your life away to the service it should not be seen as an escape that you are leaving. Military service is a not a prison. It may feel like that at times, but it is an honor to serve and choosing to leave active duty service is not an escape from poor circumstances.
From now on I will try my best to not say “I got out” when referring to my active duty service. It was just my time to move on to the next chapter in my life. I am thankful for the opportunities the US Navy presented me and without them I would not be who I am or where I am today.
So thank a veteran. Not the generic “Thank you for your service.” Please don’t say that. That phrase has become so ingrained in the American psyche that it’s no different from hello. It has lost meaning. Also don’t just throw up a “Shout out to all my veterans! XOXO” on Facebook and call it good. Find someone you know and give a personal thank you. Less than 1% of all Americans volunteer to serve, but I am sure you know someone who made that choice.
Give a meaningful thank you. Think about why you are thanking a veteran and then tell them that. They hear “Thank you for your service”, and not just on Veteran’s Day, more times than you could imagine. Put some meaning behind your words.
I am proud to call many of those I served with over the years, many of whom are still standing the watch on active duty, my friends. It was a pleasure to serve alongside each and every one of you.
I am beyond thankful for the support from my family and friends, some of whom have now chosen to join active service as well and especially my sister who signed on the line alongside me. While you may thank us for our service, let us thank all of you for your support. The men and women volunteering to serve in the greatest fighting force on the planet could not do it without your love and support. Thank you.
I love you. I thank you. And I am so proud of you.