Grave Marker of Soldier with American Flag in a National CemeteryToday is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day designed for remembrance of service members who gave their lives to this nation.

Like other holidays, though, the true “reason for the season” is too often ignored. Christmas is more about shopping and gifts than about the birth of Christianity. Memorial Day is more about cookouts and sporting events than about thanking service members for their commitment and sacrifice.

On this day – as on many days – I find myself thankful for the sacrifices that service members, veterans, and their families made and continue to make to keep our country safe.

Military members may have been drafted into service or they may have volunteered into service. Did you know that anyone who enlists in the US military the first time incurs an eight year service commitment? A recruit might sign a two- or four-year active duty contract but their service commitment is for a total of eight years. After active duty, they engage in active or inactive reserve duty.

Some service members complete their eight year commitment and transition into civilian life. Some service members embrace their military roles as a career, serving until retirement.

Families of service members sacrifice, as well. They support their military service members – sons, daughters, even mothers and fathers – through that eight year commitment. The demands of deployment, particularly in war zones, on service members and their families are extensive and exhausting. And, no matter what, service members and their families do their best to persevere through those difficult times.

How can I best express my thanks to service members and veterans? When I’ve said, “Thank you for your service” to military members, I find many seem a bit uncomfortable with me saying that. I’ve learned that some service members believe such thanks ring hollow. David Finkel’s book on this subject is a powerful narrative of the difficulties of war and of the return home from war.

The United States has placed the burden of military service on the shoulders of a very small percentage of it’s citizens (one half of one percent based on recent analysis). Military service is a heavy responsibility and such service needs to be honored, recognized, and validated.

We as US citizens need to do more – and we need to do right – by our military service members, veterans, and their families. Issues abound for service members, veterans, and their families. For example, medical care for veterans and service members must be through, top quality, prompt, and kind. Another example: pay for military members needs to enable safe and inspiring living conditions, not poverty level experiences.

Addressing these issues will cost money. Taxes may rise or current programs with less citizen benefit must be defunded to help address these issues.

Consistent graceful, kind treatment of our veterans and military members is deserved – and long overdue.

Maybe then, when these systems are fixed and veterans and service members are treated properly, they will feel honored by a grateful nation. Not only will my words but their daily experiences will leave them feeling thanked for their service and sacrifices.

What do you think? What suggestions do you have for treating service members, veterans, and their families more honorably? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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