‘Thank You For Your Service’ Stirs Up Mixed Emotions For Veterans In Missouri, Kansas

Nov 10, 2015

It’s hard for an active-duty or former military service member to make it through Veterans Day without hearing this: “Thank you for your service.”

From seemingly well-intentioned passersby to a deluge of businesses, the November refrain isn’t always a welcome one, however.  

“Where is that coming from?” Herb Comstock, a 67-year-old U.S. Army veteran in Overland Park, Kansas, tells us. “Is it like, ‘Thanks for holding the door?’ Or is it heart felt?”

In the past week, we shared an online survey, asking veterans in Missouri and Kansas how they felt when they heard, “Thank you for your service.”

The survey, part of our Tell KCUR source network, revealed mixed emotions from local veterans.

Join our Tell KCUR source network and help inform our reporting. Link is at the bottom of this story.
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Comstock described his own reaction as “defensive.”

“I never ever heard it in 1970, not even from the VA or veteran service organizations,” he writes. “We were poison until the first gulf war. World War II vets scorned us.”

Marvin Robinson, 48, of Kansas City, Kansas, says he’s insulted by the thank you. As the Navy veteran struggles to find a job and make ends’ meet, he says he dreads Veterans Day all together.

“I thought by agreeing to enlist that defending my country, that housing, education, a job would be more realistic for my future,” Robinson tells us.

Lionel Alford, an Air Force veteran in Wichita, Kansas, says he feels “honored but embarrassed” when strangers say, “Thank you for your service.”

“Military service is one of the greatest opportunities for travel, education, adventure, and training,” Alford, 57, tells us. “It should be a rite of passage for civil life in a free society.”

Mike Everhart, of Derby, Kansas, has a similar reaction.

“A little embarrassed initially,” Everhart tells us. “It’s not something that I talk about or show off (Vietnam veteran baseball caps, etc.), but I appreciate the comment.”

A few other veterans expressed more positive sentiments about the thank yous, like Susan Scholl, 70, of Kansas City, Missouri. 

“It is appreciated,” Scholl, who served in the Air Force, tell us.

Evelio Valdespino, 41, from St. Louis, also said he appreciates the statement.

“Veterans Day helps to remind us to thank and remember those who took the challenge, time, and sacrifice to support and protect something much bigger than their selves,” Valdespino, a former Marine, tells us.

“My time was short and I did not do anything extraordinary, but there are many who have and for that I thank them.”

These veterans shared their stories as part of a Tell KCUR survey. Tell your story here.  Or become a source for our Tell KCUR network and help inform our reporting. Tell KCUR is part of an initiative to engage the community and shine a light on your experiences and opinions.

Alyson Raletz is KCUR's social media editor. She can be reached at alyson@kcur.org or follow her on Twitter, @alysonraletz.