When I joined the Navy at 18, it wasn’t out of a sense of duty or patriotism. It was because I was broke, unemployed, and sleeping on a friend’s couch. My prospects weren’t good, but I had top ASVAB scores and the Navy was happy to train me to be a turbine tech. I got through basic (not hard once you figure out the purpose), sailed through ‘A’ school, and spent a year flying on Navy LCAC’s all over the Pacific Rim. A trip home to Wisconsin on my motorcycle ended my career, when a car crossed the center line and broke enough of my body to take me out of service. I never went into the service expecting a thank you. I knew the terms going in, and as I met my end of the bargain, the Navy met theirs, and while I left broken, I also left with a valuable skill set and enough money to get a degree.
To this day, when strangers see my DOD ID (I’m medically retired), I get a thank you. It’s still a strange thing. I don’t need a thank you. It’s something I know other Vets get as well. We appreciate being appreciated, but that wasn’t why we did it. To be honest, being appreciated is so far down the list of why people I know and served with did it as to be statistical noise. But as strange as it is, it’s still nice.
So if you know a vet, say thanks. They probably don’t want it, expect it, or need it, but like when someone holds a door open for you, it’s a nice gesture and always appreciated.
And if you are a vet, go get a free lunch at Applebee’s or something. If people are willing to be generous, let them.