Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...

~Scott Truitt, FOUNDER


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And/Both: On The Peace Sign - Part 3

If you’re one who feels that we’ve beat this whole Peace Sign issue to death and it’s time to move on, I get that. I feel that a bit myself. But as is often the case debating one issue can bring deeper more fundamental issues to the surface and those are worth discussing, as well. So stick with me here for just a moment as we take this opportunity to discuss one such issue…

One of the things that stood out to me when reading some of the comments about our last few blogs about the Peace sign was how many of those who opposed our use of the Peace sign seemed to completely ignore the idea behind the sign and why we had it on our site, and focused simply on the surface issue of whether or not it was offensive to a handful of Vets. [And let me be clear – I do not say “handful” to be flip. I watch our numbers fairly closely, and the number of Vets who have voiced opposition to the sign compared to those who have not had an issue with it is extremely small.] Several people argued that if the symbol offended any Vets at all we should pull it from our site – regardless of the purpose behind it. They offered no alternative solutions, no new ideas that would achieve the same result in a different package – just “scrap it”, intended message and all.

The irony is that this is exactly the kind of black and white, my way or the highway thinking that created the tension around the sign in the first place. The anti-war protestors of the Vietnam era wanted only one thing: bring the troops home, and let the chips fall where they may. They didn’t care what the ramifications were. They had no alternative solutions to offer government officials that would address their concerns about the spread of communism in Southeast Asia without war. All they cared about was ending the war, and thus they created conflict in their own house. Many feel that in doing so they undermined the war effort, aided our enemies, and thus endangered our service members. For some Vietnam Vets, that is what the Peace sign represents – not peace itself.

One of the key aspects of what we’re calling Responsible Peace is in shifting to an and/both mentality as opposed to an either/or mentality: the idea that we can support our Troops and support Peace. Being productive as opposed to destructive or divisive in this environment requires a willingness to see, acknowledge, and address others’ concerns in order to find compromise wherein they will be willing to address yours. Compromise often requires an ability and willingness to focus on the “what” that you really want – not the surface details, but what is at the root of what you really want -- and to open your mind to “how” you might get what you want in such a way that allows your “opponent” to get what they want, as well.

In this case, we realize that some Vets are offended by the Peace sign due to their own unique experiences with it. And, again, it is not our intention to be disrespectful or to offend those Vets. It is our intention – what we really want – to support those Vets and to do everything in our power to ensure that future service members do not have the same experience that Vietnam Vets did. And we can see no greater way to support a service member than to do what we can to prevent sending them into battle in the future.

Part of the “how” for us in communicating that message is in combining the power of the Peace symbol with our logo, communicating the duality of our message -- the idea of supporting Peace as a means of supporting those who serve. As with most things in life, there is a cost/benefit analysis here in that, while that symbol may carry some bad connotations for a small number of Vietnam Vets, for hundreds of millions of people the world over the Peace sign simply means Peace. We have made the conscious and deliberate choice to risk offending a few in order to connect with and engage the many. Ideally, we would prefer not to offend anyone – especially Vets. But it is a risk we are willing to take in order to propagate a new social paradigm. We hope that any Vietnam Vets who are offended by the sign itself will choose to focus on the intent behind the message, and not on the package it comes in – to allow us the concession of using a symbol that holds a different connotation for them than it does for us for the benefit of getting what we all want, which is to support, protect, and defend those who serve as they do for us.

If we could all apply this sort of thinking on a more global scale – respect, understanding of intent, compromise -- would we ever go to war again? Just something to think about…


  1. Keep your "peace" sign. I'm no longer going to be a part of The Gratitude Campaign. You can wax eloquent all you want. Scott, you had your mind made up from the beginning. I can tell it will always be your way or the highway. Companies know that for every one person who writes a letter there are 10 or more who feel the same but don't write.Perhaps you might have thought of that when you were referring to "the few" who opposed that stupid sign. Two fingers held up making a "V" is actually the sign for peace used by patriotic Americas during and after the war in Nam. No more letters from me; I am out of here. You're not the only game in town and you're willing to lose people who wanted to help vets over an offensive sign.

  2. Mr./Mrs. Anonymous:

    I'm sorry that you're still so offended by the sign and what I've written about it. That is unfortunate. And you are correct -- as I've said before, losing some people because they don't agree with our point of view is a risk that we take by having a unique point of view.

    Having said that -- and I say this at the risk of offending even more people -- if you are willing to ingore and/or abandon the concept of taking more personal responsibility for when, where, why, and how we send our troops into battle simply because you don't like the symbol that we use to illustrate that concept, then you probably never were "part of The Gratitude Campaign". And that's ok -- that's your choice. I hope someday you'll make a different choice.

  3. I'm a veteran, but served post Viet-Nam. I could never possibly understand the emotional pain our country dumped on our Viet-Nam Vets, especially after they'd come back from fighting on the front lines for our freedom.
    I don't think disdain for the peace sign is solely limited to Viet-Nam Vets. As I stated before, I served post Viet-Nam, yet I find the symbol offensive as well. Let me continue by first by saying no one, and I mean no one, loves and cherishes freedom more than a soldier does because because no one provides it like a soldier does. However, the peace sign is a polar opposite of "our" world. Because the service we provide (to our nation) is not symbolized by the peace sign, and is in fact opposite of that ~ well, that causes tension within us. There is that thought of "You stand behind the freedom we provide to you to advocate peace, yet it is not peace that keeps you free. It is through a responsibility we take upon ourselves to serve our nation, through embittered wars, that freedom is provided." You have to understand that we miss our children's birth, we miss the opportunity to attend family member's funerals if operations won't allow it, we pick up our friend's body parts so that their loved ones can have what's left of their son's/daughter's/father's/mother's/aunt's/brother's/sister's/...you get the idea...body so they can have a funeral. And yes, it is our personal choice to serve, yet we do it so you won't have to. I understand your efforts to change mentality from either/or to and/both, but if you truely respect veterans, understand that the reality of their plight is far more sensitive, and should be respected as such. If I had to choose between making a social point, or paying reverance to the sensitivities of those few that would volunteer to lie down their life in my place, I will always and forever side with our veterans. I admit I've a little bias, and though I have retired, I am fully aware that somewhere, at any time, on any day, a younger more agile soldier is willing to fight and die in my place. I thank GOD for our military.

  4. I have found reading about a symbol to show gratitude to the armed forces but all I can find is one gripe after another? sorry I cant make myself read through all that negative things I just want to know what is the symbol? I have lots relatives in our large family join the service over the years and my son would have also but his father became ill with cancer and passed away when he became old enough to join and he had gotten over the anger over 9-11 his reason he wanted to join. I will back my children in anything they want to do but in my heart that was the wrong reason ! I've tried to raise them never do anything in anger but he wanted to be in the service way before then but i'm glad he wasn't over seas or something when his dad passed. Sorry I didn't mean to go on about that I just want to know what symbol? Thanks, Denise T.


One of the things that we at The Gratitude Campaign are most grateful for is our Freedom of Speech. But with Freedom comes responsibility. We ask that you keep your comments constructive and respectful to others. Disagreement is fine -- in fact, we celebrate it. Let's just show that we can disagree peacefully and respectfully.

Out of respect to the families of those who have served and struggled, please do not use last names when referring to Service Members. Posts with last names may be removed.