As 2023 ends and 2024 begins, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank billions of you, in America and around the world, for your service.
No, I’m not talking to military veterans — or at least not to military veterans AS military veterans. Whenever I’m thanked for my “service” in the US Marine Corps, my first instinct and usual course of action is to point out two things:
First, the rest of you paid me good money and provided me with food, housing, medical care, exotic travel, and other benefits.
Secondly, my “service” wasn’t to you, nor was it to some high-minded concept like, say, freedom. It was to a government which forcibly extracted that pay and those bennies from Americans’ wallets whether they liked it or not, then endangered the lives and livelihoods of Americans and others alike by using me and millions like me, sending us around the world conducting ourselves violently in pursuit of unworthy goals.
War is an evil, not a good. Those who engage in it are, at our very BEST, the unwitting (or if conscripted, unwilling) pawns of evil actors, and at worst know full well what we’re doing and for whom, yet actively choose to do it anyway.
You don’t owe veterans thanks for our “service.” We owe YOU our sincere apologies and such restitution as we can figure out how to make for the damage we’ve done.
Of course, many veterans go on later to engage in service that’s truly worthy of thanks.
Waiting tables. Growing crops. Building houses. Writing software. Entertaining audiences. Treating the ill and injured. Putting out fires. Repairing or operating planes, trains, trucks, cars, bicycles, etc. Mopping floors. Cleaning toilets or making sure water gets to and from them correctly.
The list of good and important things that people do goes on and on.
The vast majority of humans spend much of our time making other humans’ lives better, and having our own lives made better by those other humans.
I’m not sure we thank each other (including military veterans who’ve moved on from destructive to productive work) enough, or sincerely enough, for all we do.
But I’m sure we should.
My New Year’s resolution is to be more mindful of my debt to all those who, by way of earning their own livings, improve my life.
Thank YOU for YOUR service. I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2024.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.