My answer to What is the best charity or way to help wounded military veterans?
Answer by Ken Larson:
I commend the fact that you mean well, but please keep the following in mind.
I visit a VA PTSD and critical injury ward each Christmas, meeting many wounded like the ones you will read here.
“THE NEW YORK TIMES”
“The thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.
Something in the stomach tumbles from expressions of appreciation that are so disconnected from the “evil, nasty stuff you do in war; when your war turns out to have feet of clay — whether fighting peasants in Vietnam or in the name of eradicating weapons of mass destruction that never materialized.”
“So what to say to a vet? Maybe promise to vote next time, Mr. Freedman said, or offer a scholarship or job (as, he said, some places have stepped up and done). Stand up for what’s right, suggested Mr. O’Brien.
The thanks Mr. Garth gets today remind him of both the bad times and the good, all of which carry more meaning than he has now in civilian life. Hardest is the gratitude from parents of fallen comrades. “That’s the most painful thank you,” he said. “It’s not for me, and I’m not your son.” He struggled to explain his irritation. “It’s not your fault,” he said of those thanking him. “But it’s not my fault either.”
Mr. Freedman, 33, feels like the thanks “alleviates some of the civilian guilt,” adding: “They have no skin in the game with these wars. There’s no draft.” No real opinions either, he said. “At least with Vietnam, people spit on you and you knew they had an opinion.” Thank you for your service,” he said, is almost the equivalent of “I haven’t thought about any of this.”
Tim O’Brien, a Vietnam vet and the author of the acclaimed book “The Things They Carried,” told me that his war’s vets who believed in the mission like to be thanked. Others, himself included, find that “something in the stomach tumbles” from expressions of appreciation that are so disconnected from the “evil, nasty stuff you do in war.”
The more so, he said, “when your war turns out to have feet of clay” — whether fighting peasants in Vietnam or in the name of eradicating weapons of mass destruction that never materialized.
Mr. Garth appreciates thanks from someone who makes an effort to invest in the relationship and experience.”