“If you want to thank a veteran, be considerate, be genuine, and be willing to listen or have a conversation. Dr. [Nancy] Sherman suggests simple alternatives that may actually contribute to repairing the military-civilian gap. If the service member appears to be willing and able to talk with you, you should invite a respectful conversation.
“‘I am grateful for your service. Where were you deployed? What was it like?’
“You might also ask: How is your transition back home so far? What is/was your job in the military? How is your family doing with your service? What do you want to do now that you’re back?
“It’s also true that many [vets] do have physical and emotional scars or moral wounds as a result of their service and are dealing (or not) with lingering feelings of guilt, shame, or helplessness, among others.”
Of course, the nature of the military is that some of the troops are in harm’s way and the rest of them aren’t. I didn’t face a whole lot of threats to my very existence. The guy whose best bud got taken out by an IED will have a far different story to tell.
So I’ll probably do what I’ve been doing all along, which is giving the knowing head nod, hoping that it’s adequate, at least for the moment.
It’s fine with me. Someone else’s mileage may vary.