Service and              Sacrifice:                  When Thanks Are Backed By Action

Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams.

Did you know that anyone who enlists in the US military the first time incurs an eight-year service commitment? A recruit might sign a two- or four-year active duty contract; after their active duty period ends, they engage in active or inactive reserve duty for the remainder of that 8-year commitment, whether having been drafted or having volunteered into service. 

Some service members complete their eight-year commitment and transition into civilian life. Some service members embrace their military roles as a career, serving until retirement.

Families of service members sacrifice, as well. They support their military service members – sons, daughters, even mothers and fathers – through that eight-year commitment. The demands of deployment, particularly in war zones, on service members and their families are extensive and exhausting. And, no matter what, service members and their families do their best to persevere through those difficult times.

Consistent graceful, kind treatment of our veterans and military members is deserved – and long overdue.

I find myself thankful for the sacrifices that service members, veterans, and their families made and continue to make to keep our country safe. Of course, we have holidays to honor those fallen – Memorial Day is designed for remembrance of service members who gave their lives to this nation – and those who have served and are still among us – Veteran’s Day, but like other holidays, the true “reason for the season” is too often ignored. Just as Christmas is more about shopping and gifts than about the birth of Christianity, these holidays are more about cookouts and sporting events than about recognizing or thanking service members for their commitment and sacrifice.

How can I best express my thanks to service members and veterans? When I’ve said, “Thank you for your service” to military members, I find many seem a bit uncomfortable with me saying that. I’ve learned that some service members believe such thanks ring hollow. David Finkel’s book on this subject is a powerful narrative of the difficulties of war and of the return home from war. 

The United States has placed the burden of military service on the shoulders of a very small percentage of its citizens (one half of one percent based on this 2013 analysis). Military service is a heavy responsibility and such service needs to be honored, recognized, and validated.

We as US citizens need to do more – and we need to do right – by our military service members, veterans, and their families. Issues abound for service members, veterans, and their families. For example, medical care for veterans and service members must be through, top quality, prompt, and kind. Another example: pay for military members needs to enable safe and inspiring living conditions, not poverty level experiences.

Addressing these issues will cost money. Taxes may rise or current programs with less citizen benefit must be defunded to help address these issues.

Consistent graceful, kind treatment of our veterans and military members is deserved – and long overdue.

Maybe then, when these systems are fixed and veterans and service members are treated properly, they will feel honored by a grateful nation. Not only will my words but their daily experiences will leave them feeling thanked for their service and sacrifices.

What do you think? What suggestions do you have for treating service members, veterans, and their families more honorably?

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