Though the majority of Americans have never served in the military, most everyone is conscious of the dramatic toll that this past decade's two wars have taken on the uniformed services, nearly 7,000 of whose members have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many more wounded. So many non-veterans have taken to showing their gratitude and awareness by thanking veterans who they pass on the street.
But this simple gesture, well intentioned though it may be, is not always welcome. In fact, some veterans say that hearing strangers tell them "thank you" can be awkward or downright painful. Foreign Policy's Tom Ricks, who writes frequently on the U.S. military, raised the issue by posting a column written by an anonymous Marine veteran. The column, which Ricks headlined "You can go strangle yourself with that yellow ribbon, or, here is what I want you to do instead of shaking my hand," suggests that veterans would rather see civilians make difficult choices about the factors that led us into war in the first place, and how to prevent future war, rather than slapping a bumper sticker on their car. "As a young person who served in a war you made, I don't want your handshake, your pity, your daughter's phone number, or your faded bumper sticker. I did my frigging job so now do yours. Baby Boomers and Generation X: I want your leadership."