Hunter Garth is a 26-year-old United States Marine, who was in a gunfight battling for his life during his time in Afghanistan, but managed to make it out alive. The military veteran is now saying that he does not want to be thanked for his service, and surprisingly several other veterans are echoing the same words.
The New York Times reports that the Marine veteran and seven other Marines were huddled in a mud hut after being ambushed in Trek Nawa, a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan. Garth only had 15 bullets left and one of his fellow Marines was badly wounded, so he smoked a cheap cigarette and tried to come to terms with what was about to happen.
He reports thinking, "I'm going to die here with my best friends."
After he came home, the military veteran got a job in Denver, Colorado, with a company that provided security for a company in the marijuana industry. It was at that time he met New York Times reporter Matt Richtel. Richtel was doing an article on the marijuana industry and knew that Garth was a veteran, so he did what most of us would do, and he thanked him for his service.
Garth simply responded with, "no problem."
Richtel says he could tell that there was a problem though, he noticed it when he thanked the other military veterans that worked with Garth as well. The men started to look down and the ground and seemed very uncomfortable.
Another military veteran, Mike Green, who served as a Green Beret has called it "the thank you phenomenon."
Some recent veterans, by no means all of them, have found these thank yous to be shallow, disconnected, and a reflexive offering from people who have no idea what things are actually like over there.
Garth says that when he is being thanked it feels self-serving for the thankers, suggesting that he did it just for them, and that they somehow understand the sacrifice, night terrors, feelings of loss and bewilderment. Or don't think about it at all.
The military veteran says, "I pulled the trigger, you didn't. Don't take that away from me."
Liberty Blitzkrig published an excerpt from a letter by former U.S. Army Ranger, Rory Fanning, titled "Stop Thanking Me for My Service"- Former U.S. Army Ranger Blasts American Foreign Policy and The Corporate State. A portion of that letter is below.
"I have to admit, whenever I find myself in the midst of a large public gathering (which fortunately isn't that often), and the token veteran or two is called out in front of the masses to 'honor' I immediately begin to cringe as a result of a massive internal conflict. On the one hand, I recognize that the veteran(s) being honored is most likely a decent human being. Either poor or extraordinarily brainwashed, the man or woman paraded in front of the crowd is nothing more than a pawn. Even if their spouse hasn't left them; even if whatever conflict they were involved in didn't result in a permanent disability or post traumatic stress disorder, this person has been used and abused, and thirty seconds of cheering in between ravenous bites out of a footlong hotdog from a drunk and apathetic crowd isn't going to change that. I don't harbor negative sentiments toward the veteran.The thanks that Garth gets today remind him of both good and bad times during his military service. The hardest thank you to hear is the one from the parent of a fallen comrade. He says, "It's not for me, and I'm not your son."
"On the other hand, the entire spectacle makes me sick. I refuse to participate in the superficial charade for many reasons, but the primary one is that I don't want to play any part in the crowd's insatiable imbecility. It's the stupidity and ignorance of the masses that the corporate-state preys upon, and that's precisely what's on full display at these tired and phony imperialist celebrations."
The military veteran does appreciate thanks from someone who takes the time to invest in the relationship and experience. Or even a fellow veteran who gets it.
So what should you say to a military veteran the next time you meet one. Several suggestions have been made, such as offering a job, a college scholarship, promise to vote, or even give them $100 just to demonstrate some sacrifice on your part. What other ways should we be thanking these military veterans who gave up so much for this country?
[Photo courtesy of Daniel Borris/New York Times]