No one should be forced to serve in the military. In fact, the military exists precisely to ensure Americans can do pretty much what they want. You can work on hedges, or work on hedge funds, or anything in between.
But you must own it. Our buddy David Brooks in “Bobos in Paradise” divides working Americans into two groups: those who help people—nurses, firefighters, doctors, teachers, Marines, cops—and those who screw people—lawyers, bankers, stockbrokers, CEOs. As with kneeling in the confessional, thanking me for my service while doing none yourself does not wipe away your sins.
Every time I am thanked for my service, I stop myself from asking, “And what about yours?” I do not want you to also serve the military, but I do want you to serve our country, your city, your town, the local school. What are you doing to help? Are you volunteering at the hospital? The soup kitchen? Are you helping that elementary-school teacher in the inner city, the one who is buying her students pencils from her own pocket because the school district cannot? Are you donating to the fire department down the street?
We are all of us Americans. Each serves in his or her own way. You don’t need to thank me—your service should be enough.