Please stop. The saccharine thanks yous sometimes sound uncomfortably similar to how family members speak to an aged and senile grandmother nearing death: with over-eager, exaggerated honor for fear of bruising the memory of her last moments. Despite what you may have heard about post-traumatic stress disorder, veterans’ psyches are not so fragile that they will fracture without your constant affirmation. If you forget to say thank you, we’ll live.
At other times, the sentiments sound like hero-worship. Mind you, I much prefer this to what I hear Vietnam veterans endured. But such expressions betray an inaccurate understanding of what most soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines do. The military is mostly a uniformed bureaucracy. Most military work is banal and unadventurous—only occasionally punctuated by moments of horror and random violence.
The most heroic thing a veteran ever does is raise his or her right had and take the oath of allegiance to the United States. The rest is just part of the job. We give our kids an unhelpful stereotype of the warrior-hero when we talk about military work as if it were a super-human feat of courage and physical prowess. Soldiering is nothing like what Captain America does on the silver screen.