This Veterans Day, Don’t Thank Me for My Service. (Join Me in It)

Garrett Cathcart   |   November 11, 2021

Every Veterans’ Day social media is flooded with kind words of appreciation for those that served in uniform. It’s a good thing for a grateful Nation to show its appreciation for the sacrifices of veterans, even if it’s just a “like” or “share”. Personally– I am often (awkwardly) thanked for my service in person if someone recognizes my KIA bracelet or knows I’ve served in the military. Most Americans don’t know how to recognize veterans for their service, and it’s not their fault.

The reality is that after being in two different wars for over 20 years carried out by just one percent of the American population, there is a large divide between military veterans and the rest of the country. The last 20 years of war have had very little effect, if any, on the average American. The result is a civil-military divide that can be difficult to bridge.

For service members, the transition to civilian life is difficult. We find the pride, purpose and strong sense of community we experienced while serving is incredibly difficult to cultivate once back in civilian life. Veterans have learned about serving a cause greater than themselves, creating bonds with people from all kinds of backgrounds, and practicing servant leadership.

Those same leadership skills need to be leveraged now here at home to bridge another kind of divide.

The rest of the country is also experiencing a historic and much more precarious divide that we haven’t seen since cannons fired on Fort Sumter. Rather than a growing divide between those that have worn the uniform and those who have not—the divide is because of where we live, how we vote, and what truth we believe.

Defending American democracy abroad when the very fabric of it is fraying at home weighs heavy on a veteran’s heart. The country I left to fight for I don’t recognize anymore. Americans can’t sit at a table and talk about current events without an argument. We don’t believe in election results. We can’t agree on what makes an American or what the promise of America is, let alone speak to our neighbors who possess different political beliefs with any sort of civility.

For those who have served, and especially those in combat, it is an existential pain. Does our military service matter at all?

So this Veterans Day, I’d like Americans not to thank me for my service.  I don’t want a handshake, a drink bought, or a free meal at Applebee’s.

Rather, I ask my fellow citizens to serve our country here at home. Invest in your community, become a better leader, and spend time getting to know someone with a different background than yours.

The first Veterans Day actually began as Armistice Day in 1919 under President Eisenhower. He so aptly proclaimed,

“In order to ensure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.”

We have a new common purpose—to bring our democracy back from the brink, strengthen our communities, and inspire the next generation to serve.

Don’t know where to begin? Very soon you’ll be able to join us as we train leaders, educate the public on civics, and build platforms to serve and connect communities in order to form a More Perfect Union Stay tuned by signing up: