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Dan Rackley

Dan Rackley is a US Naval veteran living in Philadelphia and a contributor to "Will They Ever Trust Us Again?"

November 10th, 2010 8:49 PM

On Veterans Day, a 'Thank You' Is Good Enough

This column first appeared on Yahoo News

Around 10 years ago, I joined the United States Navy. For about four years from 2000 to 2004, I served on the USS Bataan. I did two combat tours during that time, and I came out of it a Third Class Petty Officer.

Six years ago I wrote a letter to a man named Michael Moore after seeing a film of his. I had just recently been discharged from the Navy, and like most people when they get out of the military, I had a lot of conflicting emotions about what I had seen and done. Michael was nice enough to put my letter in a book that he was compiling of letters he had gotten from other people in the military. The quote that must have struck a chord with him in my letter was that "I feel like I have blood on my hands." He even made it the headline of the section of the book my letter appeared in.

I think about that quote a lot. Sometimes around this time of year, guys like me turn on the TV and get pretty upset. Lots of questions come into our minds. Why the heck were we sent over to Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place? Did the people we trusted to make the right choices even know what they were doing? Do people even mean it when they look you in the eye and say, "Thank you"? Do they even know what they are thanking you for?

Personally, I would like to think that on Veterans Day -- that for one day out of the year -- that none of those questions matters. It has nothing to do with pointing fingers or laying blame. At least that's what it is for me. All it has to do with is saying thanks to veterans. And it doesn't matter how big the "thank you" is. It could be some restaurant giving you lunch for free that day. It could be them just saying it out loud. As long as they say it. Sometimes I see people arguing about how big the flag on their porch is and it makes me laugh. Like they are having a contest to see who is more humble or something. It doesn't matter how big the "thank you" is from people; the thank you is good enough.

For me, it's also a day of thanks. Thanks for people that understand that sometimes you don't like to talk about it. Thanks that you made it home alive. I'm thankful for people, like my wife, who drive with me to all those doctor's visits even though it takes up most of the day and we're both pretty tired by the end of it. I'm thankful for friends that while standing in the middle of a packed football stadium listening to a woman sing "America The Beautiful" tell me how happy -- years later after the fact -- that they are damned happy I made it back. I'm thankful for the people at all the hospitals, even though they are overwhelmed and overworked take the time to make sure they can do whatever they can to make getting through it just a little bit easier. I'm just extremely thankful for anything good; because I have seen how bad it can get. Just be thankful. That's Veterans Day in a nutshell.

I haven't spoken to Michael since my letter's appearance in his book six years ago. I doubt he even remembers me. I don't really care, to tell you the truth. Because I know that he at some point in time has said "thank you" to someone like me. Far as I am concerned, that's good enough. Makes it just a little bit easier to get the blood off.

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