May 23, 2014
Bridging the civilian-military divide begins with individual conversations, and Christians should be leading the charge in starting them.
I might suggest leaving out "Thank you for your service" altogether. That line never sounds less than half-hearted but often sounds ill-informed. You don't know who we are, where we've been, or what we've done. Save that for another time, perhaps, where you're not a stranger talking like bumper sticker. I don't know any veteran that likes to hear that vapid one-liner thrown at them as the first thing out of someone's mouth.
Treat us like human beings, not idols. "How are you doing?" "Have you been able to find work?" "What do you do now?" "Can I help you with anything? Here's my cell number if you do."
The Bible doesn't teach about ministering to veterans, but it does teach about ministering to people. Remember that veterans are people and then love and care for them as you already know how to do.
Thank you, Erica -- you have named well the awkwardness I feel every year at our village's Independence Day parade! As my neighbors all around me cheer for the uniformed service veterans (and sometimes also jeer at the group of anti-war protesters, some of them veterans also, who also march every year), it feels to me very much like the superhero idolizing you've described.
Does anyone have a suggestion for how best to conduct oneself in this public situation, when the kind of honest, respectful conversation Erica describes is not possible?
Erica, great suggestions on how to engage vets. I've never been one to toss out the "Thank you for your service" line; it seems forced to me and, like you said, idolizing. Maybe it's just not my personality to do so.
The suggestions you give on how to bridge the divide are good. My dad, a vet, has no problem engaging other vets or active military in genuine conversation when he comes across them. He has an obvious connection-- shared service. Seeking ways to tactfully open conversation and bridge the gap between non-vets and vets is very much needed and welcome.
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