A Veteran’s Perspective: ‘Don’t Thank Me’

by Jeremy Cech, Desktop Support and Helpdesk Technician

I had read something that expressed in few words what many of us feel when an American Civilian praises us for our service:

“If you want to thank a soldier, be the type of American worth fighting for.”

In 2001, I was in a field training exercise for a ramp up to participate in a joint peace-keeping operation in Kosovo when the towers came down and everything changed. We were united and wounded as a people, and while we sought out someone to punish for our pain we began to treat our neighbors with suspicion. We allowed the expression “God is Most Great” (Allahu Akbar) to send a chill through the hearts of our people when we wouldn’t blink if one of our own started shouting “God is good” in public. We handed unprecedented power and control of information, propaganda and surveillance to our government who then turned those tools back on us.

US Cities that used to thrive with life, music, culture and industry are falling into ruin. Americans living next to fracking operations have flammable tap water. Flint’s water is poisoned with lead and is undrinkable. The 9th ward has returned to nature in the hopes we would forget that we just gave up on the poor. Racism has a voice again and caring about yourself instead of your communities is the norm. Corruption is at an all-time high, and the party division is right down the middle with rural vs urban populations. The weapons we created a surplus of overseas have been donated to our local police forces, which they use against our own people — men and women who have no business wielding a firearm, never mind the machines of war we’ve used to suppress entire nations.

We came home bent and sometimes broken to a system that forces us to leap through numerous hoops just to get antiquated, sub-standard hospital care. Mental health and well-being is not given actionable attention outside of when it is politically convenient for a candidate to pay lip service to it, and as a result an average of 17 veterans commit suicide every day.

So many of us ventured through Hell and lived only to return home to a Hell that is worsening with each passing hour.

I’m not here to preach about what is right or wrong. We know we aren’t supposed to accommodate racists and racism. We know that destroying our environment has lasting, negative impacts on people we will never meet. We know that once corruption is discovered we should be taking swift and aggressive action to uproot that rot root and branch. The freedom to prosper, to provide a better life for yourself and all those that come after you was something I used to think the United States stood for. I fought for that freedom- we all did.

If you see me on the streets don’t thank me for it. I don’t want to be reminded of the sacrifices we made to give Americans the freedom to mess this up for all of us.

The blog posts in Forward. Together. are intended to foster an inclusive community of empathy and curiosity at Doane University by providing a glimpse into various individual identities and worldviews. These are community members’ unique stories and should not be presumed to be the experience of all who share the same identity.



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