Thank You For the Courage I Lack

Craig Elbe
3 min readNov 12, 2020

Thanking a Veteran for their service doesn’t seem to be enough. However, those I’ve seen placed on a pedestal of any kind reveal a certain discomfort, perhaps feeling praise of that variety wasn’t what they served this country for.

My twenty two years in retail have provided a litany of windows into the human psyche. I have witnessed some rude Veterans ask for special discounts the company didn’t offer anyone, only to later pull their service cards after they were first informed such discounts didn’t exist.

My younger, immature self allowed that to color how all Veterans were-just showing off and seeking attention and validation through those selfish actions, and the attire that detailed their service. I am not a fan of my younger self, with this old judgmental mindset being at the top of my youthful abhorrences list.

In recent years, I’ve found the boldness to thank these special people. During moments of a pridefully stated, “you’re welcome” from every Veteran, my youthful immaturity is always freshly revealed to me-and I deserve it. The vast majority of these people are showing their pride, not seeking attention. I also recognize my immaturity was steeped in shame of not being as courageous as them.

When I thank Veterans for their service, some ask if I also served. I don’t hesitate to admit I never had the valor for it. I tell them their choice to serve ensured that I had a choice not to, and is a big part of my gratitude. From older Veterans, they’ve told stories of being drafted, yet their pride is the same as those who chose to serve.

This year’s Veteran’s Day was perhaps the most important in my lifetime. I am hopeful it began to unite us as a country, a country that’s been divided by politics, with the division magnified by a pandemic.

We are mere days after the presidential election where its results are still being disputed. There are all varieties of hopes and projections and confirmation biases hinged on who won and if it was a fair election. I wish we all realized none of this matters near as much as it’s being portrayed.

These polarizing times have damaged relationships, and tarnished opinions of those formerly held in high regard. Again, none of it really matters. When we use our differences to divide each other, instead of having boundaries and civil discourse, then the sacrifices of Veterans can seem impotent and meaningless. We know better, and need to do better…