In a meaningless, performative, symbolic effort, a pair of lawmakers have asked their colleagues to endorse replacing the phrase “thank you for your service” — a phrase many troops and veterans already consider meaningless, performative and symbolic — with “thank you for our freedom,” which, to the authors’ credit, is somehow even more meaningless, performative and symbolic than the status quo.
Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., filed the non-binding legislation Thursday and promptly published a press release about it. The bill, which would do absolutely nothing outside of unraveling a yellow ribbon bumper sticker empire if passed, also has little chance of getting passed — the U.S. House is in recess while members run reelection campaigns, and the legislative session will end shortly after their return.
In a statement accompanying the bill’s announcement, Bergman, a retired Marine Reserve three-star general who oozes medically concerning amounts of motivation, said the “resolution will help ensure those of us blessed to call America home understand the personal importance of our servicemen and women’s sacrifice for our Nation.”
“All gave some and many made the ultimate sacrifice,” added the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., who did not serve in the military ... but is thankful for the freedom to run for reelection.
How many of Bergman’s campaign advertisements will mention the bill has not been specified, but we’re willing to place a $5 wager on that number being greater than zero. Our $5 pales in comparison, however, to the $106,702 the House Armed Services Committee member received from the defense industry during the current campaign, according to Open Secrets.
It remains unclear why the congressmen believe troops need to be continually thanked for “our freedom” after 20 years of near-fetishization of the military, be it in the form of trotting out service members at every professional sporting event, showering veterans in free food — just from the limited menu! — from Applebees, or guzzling Navy SEAL input on everything from bird house construction to slam poetry.
(Studies show “Get after it!” is the input 93.7% of the time.)
There has certainly been no shortage of thanks from Corporate America, hollow as much of it may be.
Meanwhile, it took years for the federal government to acknowledge the harm those who actually fought the wars endured from environmental hazards like burn pits. The long-overdue PACT Act to authorize and fund Global War on Terror-era toxic exposure benefits was reduced to a political football before it passed following massive outcry from veterans groups.
Inflation is currently crushing troops and their families as well, and pay and benefits increases meant to slow the bleeding simply aren’t able to keep pace.
Nothing a little “thank you for our freedom” from Congress can’t fix.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.