Welcome Home

A question for Ricochet’s soldiers: How would you prefer to be welcomed home?

It’s not just the thought that counts. Sometimes, expressions of love or gratitude are thoroughly annoying or poorly timed, due to differences in expectations and needs.

But it’s impolite to complain about those expressions. So you keep silent and have to endure the same mistakes over and over again. Well, here’s your chance to gently correct those of us who wish you well.

When you return from active duty, after mo…

  1. KarlUB

    Glad you asked. I’ve always wondered this myself.

    Were I in their shoes local welcoming parties, people at the airport, that sort of thing…I would probably find it intrusive and vaguely embarrassing. But I am also the type of person who wouldn’t want visitors in the hospital, so I know I’m weird.

  2. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    I love this question, and think it would be great if Ricochet’s military members also shared their insiders’ -view insights into the countries we talk about here. 

  3. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    @Jetstream: You nailed it. I had very mixed feelings at end of my Iraq tour. Strong sense of not being done and that I should be staying to continue the effort. It is hard to feel that later efforts matter in the same way, the stakes are almost always so much lower. It helps with perspective too. I had a very difficult boss for few years who was very verbally abusive. After a chew out one day his secretary asked me how I could stand that. I told her tha after having someone repeatedly try to actively kill you, things like a difficult boss seem pretty inconsequential. That quote at the end of the Ken Burns Civil War series is one of the few things that always chokes me up everytime I hear or read it. I think I have a transcript of it. I will post it if I do.

  4. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    Excellent and thoughtful question, Aaron. You’ll probably get a different answer from every vet you ask.  I will write something substantive in a bit.  I can’t presently.

  5. Paladin

    Every single person is different. If you know someone who is coming home talk to them and ask what they want. In general, expect them to be nervous and hypervigilant, especially in out in public/ in crowds. Expect them to have trouble sleeping.

    The people at the airport style welcoming party is actually pretty good because if the veteran doesn’t want to talk to them he/she can just keep walking and not make eye contact. If they do want it then handshakes and thanks and hugs can be wonderful.

    Personally, it’s always special when a stranger walks up to me, shakes my hand and thanks me for my service. I know they aren’t thanking just me, I’m a stand-in for them thanking every single person who wears a uniform. It is a reminder of all that is good in America.

  6. Paladin

    As for what I wanted when I got home – to spend time with my very pregnant wife, sleep in everyday, and just relax!

    PS: On Friday Oct 5 my daughter was born and she is the picture of perfect baby health :D Best part of not being in Afghanistan!

  7. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    Robert McKay: As for what I wanted when I got home – to spend time with my very pregnant wife, sleep in everyday, and just relax!

    PS: On Friday Oct 5 my daughter was born and she is the picture of perfect baby health :D Best part of not being in Afghanistan! · 5 minutes ago

    Congratulations!

  8. DocJay

    Robert McKay, congratulations and God Bless your wife and daughter!  May she see you both grow old and happy.   

  9. Cutlass

    Great question! 

    Clearly it’s crucial that our soldiers know that we appreciate then, but the suggestion to just going up to random soldiers saying “thank you for your service” always struck me as awkward.

    It’s interesting. I once had a guy at a tire shop praise me as a “hero” for being a teacher, a comment I laughed off as kind of absurd. However, every once in a while, if I get bogged down in my job, that silly little gesture will actually pop up to remind me of the responsibility I’m charged with (even if it doesn’t rise to the level of “hero”).

    The best answer I’ve heard came from Peter Robinson (I think…), who once suggested that if we see soldiers in a bar or restaurant to secretly pay their check and have the waiter/bartender tell them why.

  10. Cutlass
    Robert McKay: 

    Personally, it’s always special when a stranger walks up to me, shakes my hand and thanks me for my service. I know they aren’t thanking just me, I’m a stand-in for them thanking every single person who wears a uniform. It is a reminder of all that is good in America.

    *Cutlass virtually walks up to Robert, shakes his hand, thanks him for his service and buys him a grande latte at the proverbial flagship Starbucks.*

  11. AusMartin

    Idea: gift a soldier a Ricochet membership as a way to thank them for their service.

    Background:

    • So I just heard this morning the Editor’s podcast in which you will soon be able to gift Ricochet memberships to others.

    • And then I read Cutlass’s suggestion of a grande latte and thought: why don’t Ricochet members gift a soldier a membership to Ricochet?
    • I’m sure there are plenty who would appreciate the value during the quieter times to hear, read and contribute to the best centre-right conversation site on the web.

    Who knows, there may end up being a “Milblog” feed someday at the top of Ricochet?

  12. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    “In time, even death might be abolished.” Sergeant Berry Benson, aSouth Carolinaveteran from McGowan’s Brigade, Wilcox’s division, A.P. Hill’s corps, Army of Northern Virginia saw it so when he got around to composing the Reminiscences he hoped would “go down amongst my descendants for a long time.” Reliving the war in words, he wished he could relive it in fact, and he came to believe that he and his fellow soldiers, gray and blue, might one day be able to do just that: if not here on earth, then afterwards in Valhalla. “Who knows,” he asked as his narrative drew to a close, “but it may be given to us, after this life, to meet again in the old quarters, to play chess and draughts, to get up soon to answer the morning roll call, to fall in at the tap of the drum for drill and dress parade, and again to hastily don our war gear while the monotonous patter of the long roll summons to battle?”  (cont.)

  13. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    (cont. from #40) “Who knows but again the old flags, ragged and torn, snapping in the wind, may face each other and flutter, pursuing and pursued, while cries of victory fill a summer day? And after the battle, then the slain and wounded will arise, and all will meet together under the two flags, all sound and well, and there will be talking and laughter and cheers, and all will say: Did it not seem real? Was it not as in the old days?”

    – Shelby Foote, The Civil War, Vol.3, page 1048.

  14. Ragnar Danneskjöld

    “Courage after Fire” by Armstrong and “What It’s Like To Go to War” by Marlantes are a great place to start to get some information on how to help your loved one returning from deployment.

  15. Trink
    Robert McKay: 

    Personally, it’s always special when a stranger walks up to me, shakes my hand and thanks me for my service. I know they aren’t thanking just me, I’m a stand-in for them thanking every single person who wears a uniform. It is a reminder of all that is good in America. · 56 minutes ago

    I’ve actually managed this once.  The problem is I always choke up and don’t want to make the young man or woman have to take care of me.   I like to think my donations to the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project help make up for my lachrymose failures. 
  16. Fastflyer

    My war was a long time ago. I wanted to sleep for a month. I was hyper-vigilent and tense whenever in a car. There are an amazing number of ambush points along U.S. Highways. I couldn’t sleep well without a weapon with me for most of a year. Loud noises or sounds that mimic incoming would cause reflexive reactions that happen without thinking. My dad, a WW II veteran of operation Torch and the North Africa Campaign, took me aside and advised me not to worry about it, he understood and that my odd actions would eventually fade, which they did in about six months. Just be supportive and understanding while your warrior decompresses and adjusts. It takes time.

  17. Dave Carter
    C

    The well wishes of people at airports warms the heart.  The embrace of family and close friends is a dream come true.   But afterward, I’ve found that a week or so at home, with no commitment to do anything other than rest and be with family, is absolutely essential.  

    As for approaching vets in public, I’ve been on the receiving and the giving end of these encounters, and they can be very rewarding and moving for all involved.   I was stranded once at a hotel in Pittsburgh, where my truck had broken down.  There was a young troop at the hotel restaurant, in uniform.  I arranged with the waiter to pick up the tab without the troop knowing who had done it.  I just wanted to thank him without a public fuss.  

  18. Dave Carter
    C
    Robert McKay: As for what I wanted when I got home – to spend time with my very pregnant wife, sleep in everyday, and just relax!

    PS: On Friday Oct 5 my daughter was born and she is the picture of perfect baby health :D Best part of not being in Afghanistan! · 1 hour ago

    Congratulations, Pop!!  And thank you so very much for your service, sir.  

  19. sean mulkey

    I must agree with the initial comment that it’s different for each one of us. I’m always kind of sheepish since I feel like serving my country was an honor, a badge of ‘dues paid’ that I am allowed to wear forever. I would have been eternally disappointed had I NOT been activated for my year in the sand. As for how to deal with the occasionally awkward thank-you, I try hard to thank THEM for the support, and then to make sure they know that I served willingly & with pride and that a year of duty is a small price to pay for being blessed to grow up & raise my own six children in the greatest country on earth. As for the occasional numbskull who asks me what it feels like to have served as a tool of the oil oligarchs Bush & Cheney, I simply tell them I wish they appreciated my service as much as the free Iraqis I talked to every day. That’s one group of people who think Bush was ‘Numba one, good very good!’

  20. jetstream
    Robert McKay: …

    PS: On Friday Oct 5 my daughter was born and she is the picture of perfect baby health :D Best part of not being in Afghanistan! · 1 hour ago

    Congratulations there ole Dad … just some father to father advice, have you thought about which model Mustang you’re going to buy for her 16th birthday … I know you think you’ve got couple of years before she’s starts pointing out the colors she likes, but … my advice, just go ahead and plan on the convertible

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