I was having a conversation the other day with a psychologist, Kate Dahlstedt M.A. L.M.H.C., Co-Director of an organization called Soldier's Heart. Kate works with Veterans who are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress (remember, we dropped the D – “Disorder” part). She was telling me about some of the work that she’s doing with Veterans, and that some of them struggle with being thanked for their service at all. Some of them, according to Kate, feel that they did and saw some pretty horrible things in the course of their service in combat, and they don’t feel that those are things that we should be thanking them for.
Although I haven’t had that experience myself, I can understand how someone who has experienced what they’ve experienced might feel that way. So I thought that it was worth taking a moment to reflect on what exactly it is that we’re thanking them for when we thank them for their service. Of course, everyone has their own experience, and their own point of view on things, and we at thegratitudecampaign acknowledge and respect that. Here is our point of view:
We are free. Free to be the people that we want to be, to go where we want to go, to do what we want to do, and say what we want to say. As human beings those freedoms are our birthright; but they must be respected, and they must be defended.
When someone signs up to serve, they take an oath of service. The crux of that oath is that they promise to “…protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign, and domestic.” From that point on, throughout the duration of their service, where, when, and how they fulfill that oath is not completely up to them. Depending on the circumstances they are presented with, some do it heroically. Some do it quietly, almost anonymously. And it is the fate of some that they must endure, and perhaps on occasion participate in the most brutal aspects of being human over the course of their service. Not having walked in their shoes, those aspects are not mine to judge. But they all – every single one of them -- by taking that oath, have joined the ranks of millions of men and women who, for over 200 years, have served and sacrificed to defend Freedom so that the rest of us may live the way we want to live.
That, in its simplest terms, is what we thank them for.
For more information about Soldier’s Heart, please visit http://www.soldiersheart.net/