Social media, flag-flying, and "thought-leaders"

Begin rant. (you’ve been warned)

So I’m a veteran working on Memorial Day. I’m not complaining, since this isn’t my holiday (as evidenced by the fact that I’m still alive. My holiday is November 11, and I’ll probably be working then, too.) And I’m taking next Monday off (thanks to having a good boss).

But while driving home for lunch today, I couldn’t help but notice all the flags adorning people’s driveways. And I couldn’t help but notice all the Facebook and Twitter chatter about “It’s not just a three-day weekend”, and “when you go to the beach, remember that somebody died at the beach”, and posting pictures of kids hugging some soldier’s tombstone.

I just wonder how many of these people who post these kind of “America–F—Yeah!!!” messages actually do one goddamn thing to support their country, their veterans, the widows and orpahs, or, for that matter, even do a single thing in memory of those who served and died. And more often than not, most of the people tweeting pictures of flag-draped caskets are on their way to somebodys else’s backyard BBQ or the pool or something. Yet they seem to feel like retweeting this picture somehow makes them a good American. Somehow holier than the run-of-the-mill partygoer who gets an extra day to recover from a hangover.

Hey asshole–posting a picture of an American Flag on your Facebook account doesn’t make you a patriot. It makes you a douchebag. Either enlist or just let the rest of us enjoy our three-day weekend without your holier-than-thou jingoist attitude. We don’t want to think about dead soldiers while spending time with our kids.

And before you come back with “You’re not a patriot, Greenie”–remember that I actually served in the military, unlike 90% of all the dick-lickers bleeding red-white-and-blue all over their Budweisers.

End rant. (Sorry. Just had to get that out there.)

I agree. I’ll add to it, I sometimes cringe when I hear someone say (after someone casually mentions being in the armed forces, usually in an automatic and insincere fashion) “Thank you for your service.” Like, what is the soldier supposed to say to that? You’re welcome, pal, anytime you need me to display the nuts that you don’t have and face enemy fire while you work in some glass office and complain when the coffee is cold? It’s just weird – it’s more genuine when a person asks questions and shows genuine interest in the soldier’s story.

Now don’t get me wrong, someone that thanks someone for their service and really means it (similar to the disabled vet thanking Chris Kyle at the auto service shop in American Sniper) I have no issue with. But the throwaway nature of that line, I just have an issue with it.


Want to thank me? Pay for my meal or buy me a drink.

Alrite, I’ll dip into this conversation. Not trying to push back for the sake of, but now i’m genuinely curious on two things:

if thanking you for the service makes you cringe, what is it people should be saying? and when someone says those 4 words to you, how do you tell if really mean it ?

And I don’t do any of those things Greenie mentioned, but I think there’s more to memorial day than just dead soliders no? pride in your country, freedom, all that?

May I recommend a book that fits nicely with this topic? “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” by Ben Fountain. Even better, the Dallas Cowboys are prominently involved.

Thank them by keeping them home.

  1. Don’t say anything. When you say, “I used to work at JP Morgan,” does somebody say, “Thanks you for supporting our financial institutions and enabling our system of credit to enhance our economy and prop our businesses.”? No, they don’t. It’s just a job.

  2. I don’t have a problem with pride in my country or freedom. I have a problem with people who say “You people don’t know what Memorial Day is about. It’s not about barbecues and beaches. Look at me. Look at how awesome I am, because I remember the REAL reason for Memorial Day. See? I posted a picture of a toddler hugging her daddy’s tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery. Now pass the potato chips and Keystone Light.”

Let me also add this–I was never forward deployed. The deadliest weapons I used were my mouse and monitors (being intelligence instead of infantry). And even though I had some good times (which I could have had in college), I don’t look back on my military career with much fondness. In general, I thought the people were stupid and the organization was inefficient. Other people with different experiences might feel differently about being “thanked for their service”.

Look on the bright side–after DoW posted, I discovered the Reddit about “Thank you for your service.” I learned that the easiest, most Pavlovian way to get out the conversation is just to respond, “Thank you for your support.” (Although for 95% of the country, the most they will ever support the military is by begrudgingly paying their income tax. But hey–lip service is better than nothing…I think.)

Didn’t know you were a fan. I like you more and more all the time!!!

Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll take a look.

Sure, sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is throwing that line out there automatically, like a “God bless you” after a sneeze. Some are really trying to express gratitude, I know. I’m not really sure anything is necessary – or, if someone really means it, like Greenie suggests, pick up the tab. Or donate generously to Wounded Warriors or the dozens of charities out there to help soldiers and sailors and families who gave it all. That’s a silent move, but that’s true gratitude.

  1. well of course no one says that. working at JPM doesn’t have a potentially life threatening aspect to it.

  2. Ok that i’ll agre with

so to be clear, you would much rather have people just walk past you and not say anything (assume you were in uniform), and anonymously give money to you directly, or some veterans charity.

Greenman, don’t forget that every single cent of veteran’s benefits or military funding is paid for by taxes or donations. The pro military attitude that you observed just helps increase public support for these purposes.

I agree with Greenman, it’s fascinating how a country in two wars over the past decade has little or no connection with its soldiers. I’ve always felt the “thank you for your service” comes more out of a sense of guilt or something.

My instincts are liberal-peacenik (though I am realist enough to know that some very aggressive people will not be stopped by saying “please don’t” in a whiny enough voice).

I dislike the term “thank you for your service,” but I find myself saying it now and then as a way to acknowledge that these people took risks and did things that I didn’t or wouldn’t like to do, and that they deserve some respect for that which they probably don’t get all that often. Trotting it out only on Memorial Day and Veterans Day does seem to be a bit tool-ish, though.

I did have a social network discussion with a former colleague who was pointing out that “Happy Memorial Day” was not an appropriate thing to say for a holiday that is to commemorate fallen soldiers. I pointed out that it is true, but I don’t interpret it as “I’m so happy you have to remember a fallen comrade/family member,” but more as “Please enjoy your day off of work.” I’m not sure it’s necessary to beat people over the head with it, and since I know Greenie is a former Marine, I’m glad to hear that he feels the same way (or close).

^Let me also add that I have a few people who told me via social media “Thanks for your service.” It’s a little different when a person actually seeks you out to say that to you. That meant a lot when my internet friends said that. It means they remembered and cared enough to put in a couple extra minutes to say something nice to me.

That’s different from me mentioning “Yeah, I was in the Marines way back when” in a casual conversation and getting the obligatory and insincere “Thanks for serving.”

you’re a jerk for serving greenie.

i get your point but i think most people are just robots who spout mottos and phrases they hear without really thinking much about what they mean. can you blame the average guy for having average thoughts? also, people are generally kind of awkward and don’t know how to have conversations.

Speaking of average people with average thoughts, did we ever “#bringbackourgirls”?Or did mericans forget about that after people started pouring buckets of ice water on themselves?