Here's How To Really Thank Vets For Their Military Service

For veterans and service members, receiving thanks on Veterans Day, or on any day for that matter, can elicit a wide range of emotions or reactions. Some may respond with a genuine smile, others may give an awkward and humble nod. The reasons for why are as varied as the reactions and as diverse as the veterans being thanked, which raises an important question: On Veterans Day, how do we honor the men and women who have taken this oath and served our country and the American people?

Task & Purpose posed this question to our network of contributors, specifically asking, How should people thank you for your service? Here's what they said.

"It can be frustrating to be thanked for my military service for a few reasons, but often it's because there's no easy, conversational response. Normally when someone says, 'Thanks for XYZ,' I can just say, 'You're welcome.' But in this case that sort of rings flat. If people could just find a way to make it easier and more conversational to respond when they thank a veteran for their service, that would be pretty awesome." --Kevin Bell, U.S. Army veteran

"Listen when I share my stories and ask questions. Don't be afraid to offend, veterans aren't shrinking violets. We're pretty hardcore. And if you want to buy me a beer, I wouldn't turn that down." --Stephanie Christopher, U.S. Army veteran

"Welcome home with a handshake is enough for me. Please do not place me on a pedestal." --Ryan Kaufman, U.S. Army veteran

"Getting prescriptive about how people should thank me is stifling and unhelpful. I appreciate gratitude no matter how it's conveyed." --Lydia Davey, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

"With regards to being thanked for my service, no one should be under any obligation to do so. If they want to, that's fine, although ask about my experiences, the people, the conditions. The real, honest stories we share truly help people understand a concept so foreign (literally and figuratively) to them. If they truly feel the need to thank and support service members, I would encourage them to find a veteran's group or organization and help them out however they can." --Kyle Dykstra, U.S. Army veteran

"How should people thank me for my service? Vote!" --Alexander McCoy, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

"Talk to me. Ask me what my job entails, what I enjoy about the military or why I chose to serve. Not because I like talking about myself, but because it's a more meaningful way to engage if you have a better understanding of what you're actually offering thanks for." --Marissa Cruz, U.S. Navy reservist

"Don't thank me at all. My father and grandfather were combat vets who fought at Hamburger Hill in Vietnam and the Battle of Peleliu during World War II respectively, receiving Bronze and Silver Stars for their valor and devotion. Until I can stand shoulder to shoulder with them, your thanks are better directed toward someone who has proven their dedication to the values of honor, courage, and commitment." --David McCauley, U.S. Navy veteran

"I'm not one of those who hates it when someone outright thanks me for my service; however, for me, the greatest way to thank a veteran is to get to know one, and also to get educated on veterans' issues. Then, use that knowledge to vote responsibly in local, state, and federal elections, especially those with referenda on military issues. We serve the people, and the best way for the people to thank us is to use their civic power in an informed, responsible manner." --Rachel Brune, U.S. Army reservist

"Simply do what God put you on this earth to accomplish -- build a business, grow a family, advocate for things you are passionate about. The best thanks you can give to a veteran is living a life of meaning only available in the United States" --Benjamin Kohlmann, U.S. Navy officer

"Posting a hashtag to social media or changing a green lightbulb may be a good first step, but it doesn't do much to really say 'thank you.' Some better ways to show you care can be as simple as volunteering at the local VA hospital, lending a hand with a local veterans group, or donating to a worthy veterans cause. For companies or schools that really want to say "thank you," hire veterans; enroll veterans; and most of all, get to know your veterans. If you want to let your veterans take the day off this Veterans Day, I think that works too." --Ryan Gallucci, U.S. Army veteran

"The biggest thing people can do is do something, not say something -- if you're of military age, enlist. If not, then volunteer for your community in a meaningful way. If you can't serve your country overseas, then do it at home. If you can't do that, donate to a veterans service organization to help ensure veterans get the care they need." --Carl Forsling, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

"The best thing the American public can do for service members and families is to be informed. The American public has an obligation to know what the military does on its behalf. They have an obligation to understand how a failure to pass a budget affects the lives of three million men and women in uniform. We don't expect the American public to agree with everything we do, they just have to understand us." --Crispin Burke, U.S. Army officer

"The most meaningful ways people can thank a veteran is through action. Volunteer with a veteran-related organization or welcome a veteran friend to join for a workout or group activity. Even visiting or researching community war memorials or monuments shows the potential for a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made by veterans. People thanking veterans genuinely through action is a far more meaningful gesture of gratitude than a couple of words." --Jennifer Dolsen, U.S. Army veteran

A version of this article originally ran on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.