Life as a Combat Veteran: When We Fail To Respond 


If you read any of my blog posts, make it this one. Veteran’s Day is approaching and I want to share something that has been on my heart for a long time. 

Many times throughout the year I will have  someone post a comment or send me a message thanking me for my service in the Armed Forces. When I see these comments I am humbled, grateful and most of the time unsure of how to respond. It is many times awkward. Here is why: 

1. When I share a picture of my time in the service, I am not looking for a response. 

OK, OK,  I do enjoy getting a few likes, but that is not why most of us veterans share pictures. Sometimes we come across an old photo that never made it to social media. Sometimes something happens where we feel the need to post something encouraging for the brothers we served with. Every once in awhile we just need to go on an old fashioned rant to clear up where we stand on an issue. Other times we simply want to remember an anniversary that is meaningful to us. 

2. Your simple “Thank You” means more than you will ever know. 

It’s not that you said “Thank You” to me, it is just the fact that you took the time to say it. Every time someone thanks me for my service, deep down I am praying that other veterans are thanked just as often as I am. I feel proud to know so many people that appreciate the sacrifices that have been made on their behalf. 

3. Your words about my service bring up memories and emotion. 

When someone says, “I’m sure you saw some terrible things over there”, usually I immediately start to think about some of those moments. Ask any combat veteran, and they will tell you, once the memories start rolling it usually takes awhile to process all the emotion it brings to the surface. After reading some messages of thanks, it may be hours before I move on to something else. Which brings me to my last point. 

4. Sometimes I don’t know how to respond. 

I can’t just say “You’re Welcome”. I want to say, “No, Thank You” but that just seems weird. I want to pour my heart out to each and every person and tell them about how much I loved serving in the military and how I miss it more than they could possibly understand. I really want to defer the attention off of myself and ask that people look up the names of Tyler Southern, Omar Avila and Jason Redman so that they can meet some true heroes. I think about guys like Ross McGinnis and Patrick Lybert who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and I pray deep down that people don’t forget to be thankful for what they gave so that we could be free. 

With a post like this, I am sure there will be some of you who want to thank me or the veteran who shares this link but here is what I challenge you to do instead. This Veteran’s Day, stop by a VA hospital near where you live or maybe even a local nursing home, and find a veteran who could really use your thanks. Find a WW2, Korean or Vietnam vet who doesn’t have social media and take the time to be perhaps the only person who will show appreciation for what they did in service to our country. If you want to thank me, thank them, because that would be the greatest way to show your appreciation this Veteran’s Day and everyday. 

-Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is an Executive Coach and Leadership speaker with the John Maxwell Team, as well as the Director of Rooftop India, an organization that seeks to train leaders internationally, as well as care for orphans through the ministry of the Azlynn Noelle Children’s Home.
Smith served as an Infantry soldier with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division from 2002-2005. Wounded in Fallujah, Iraq in 2003 by shrapnel from an IED, he is the recipient of the Purple Heart.
Because of his military experience, he now assists as a mentor with Honor & Courage (Operation Ward 57), a non-profit organization that financially assists Wounded Warriors and their families.