The Best Defense

Hating that yellow ribbon (IV): Here are the ways one officer handles it

We had a tie for comment of the day. Here's the other one, from "Colturk," which you might have missed because it was the 101st filed on the original "yellow ribbon" essay:

You ask how it feels when some says "Thanks for serving", or words to that effect. Well, it depends and I can only speak for myself.

The big banners "Support our Troops" on a box store: disgusting.

A manager at a restaurant picking up the bill: a bit embarrassing, to be honest.

A stranger saying, "Thanks for serving" while I'm at the grocery store on the way home from work: that's a little more complicated, but they mean well if only for a moment, which is what makes it complicated. Rather than interrogating them about how they voted and are they donating to veterans groups, I have parsed my response down to this: "It's an honor to serve."

Given the abundance of gray hair, I get a lot of parents see me as someone their own age and tell me their son or daughter is serving, and that causes a longer conversation. As an officer, I feel it's my duty to stand in the aisle or stay at a table and listen to their story as long as they want to talk. I don't try to reassure them their children are going to be safe or we are fighting a good fight. I let them talk to a guy in a uniform until they get done and hope they feel less strained, if only for a few minutes. When that's done, I don't feel much at all. It's a duty.

When a Gold Star mother tells me, "Thanks," and then holds me for ten minutes while she sobs in a terminal at Denver International Airport: I am overwhelmed.


The Best Defense

Hating that yellow ribbon (III): Why your 'thank you' is so damn awkward

I thought Jim Gourley had a lot of wisdom to impart in yesterday's discussion with his comments about how internal grief often is expressed as external anger. If you didn't see it, go back and look

Meanwhile, further exploring this theme of disliking the yellow ribbon mentality, there was this from "Strykertyme," which I nominate as a tie for comment of the day:

When I was in Iraq from Aug 06-Feb 07 I never left the wire. We received IDF maybe two times, one of which we didn't even know anything had happened until the big voice announced "ALL CLEAR" out of nowhere. So, I can't speak on what it was like to go out on patrols, get shot at, blown up, and do the heavy work of the war.

I was one of about 12 Marines working at a hospital with a bunch of Navy Medical Personnel (some of whom drove me crazy, but all of them were great at their jobs, so I hold them in very high regard). This unique job put me in some very thought provoking situations, thoughts I'm still contemplating today.

We received 112 KIAs, mostly Iraqis, but at least 1/3 were American service members, a few of which died within the Hospital itself (the darkest moments of the deployment). Each one made me contemplate our being there. Each one led me to the thought of some Mom back in the States who at the time had no idea that her son had died in a terrible IED blast or fell victim to a sniper's round, etc., and that within hours she'd be notified, and her world would be flipped upside down forever. Each one led me to ask myself, what the f*** are we doing here?

I've been back nearly 4 years now, left the Marine Corps in 08, and I still can't come to terms with that question. The more I think about it, the more I become sick to my stomach, and each "thank you" only reinforces that feeling. I hope to one day get to the point where "thank you" doesn't make me feel awkward, but I don't see that being anytime soon.