Why Would Some People Say, ‘I Hate Veterans Day’?

Veterans Day is one of the 11 (12 during inauguration year) federal holidays celebrated each year in the United States. While the goal of Veterans Day is to commemorate those who’ve served in the US military, there are some who don’t like the concept of being celebrated or ‘thanked for their service’. And others who go so far as to proclaim, ‘I hate Veterans Day’.

Some people say ‘I hate Veterans Day’ because the hoopla surrounding it seems inappropriate for honoring military service. From soldiers who’ve served firsthand to families who’ve lost loved ones to war, there are people who think the parties and parades around Veterans day don’t make sense.

As a mom of an active duty soldier and a sister to two former Airmen, I have high regard for those who serve in the military, as well as understand (a bit of) the sacrifice they and their families make. I believe in thanking Veterans as well as in the spirit of Veterans Day, but can see how the celebrations can make some possibly utter, ‘I hate Veterans’ Day.’

I’ll share below what I’ve learned about this.


An Overview of Veterans Day

Veterans Day is officially November 11th, signed into order by President Eisenhower in 1954. This declaration changed Armistice Day (after World War I) to Veterans Day, marking the time to honor all Veterans. It also declared government offices and buildings closed, and urged churches, schools, and other institutions to set aside this day for remembering Veterans.

Essentially, the holiday serves as a way to thank the country’s military personnel for their service.

Veterans Day is celebrated, or not, across the country, depending on where you live. For example, most public K-12 schools are closed on Veterans Day, such as Los Angeles Unified School District and New York City Public Schools, the largest two districts in the states.

However, private K-12 schools are rarely closed for Veterans Day like Phillips Academy in North Carolina and Sidwell Friends School in Bethesda, Maryland, both opened on November 11th.

Likewise, most universities hold regular classes on Veterans Day. But one thing to note, most smaller private and religious schools like St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Knoxville, Tennessee honors the day with a special Mass and celebration.

How Do Cities Celebrate Veterans Day?

  • Knoxville, Tennessee will host a parade from 10:45 AM to 12:00 PM in their downtown area.
  • Savannah, Georgia will have a city-wide parade with several businesses and organizations participating.
  • Washington State Parks will have a fee-free day for everyone.
  • The Veterans Day Parade in NYC is organized by the United War Veterans Council and is the largest Veterans Day event in the US.
  • Denver, Colorado will host a festival with bands, re-enactments, and activities for kids.
  • and in Arlington, Virginia, the Department of Veterans Affairs will host an event starting with the laying of wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.  

Do veterans get tired of hearing ‘thank you for your service’?

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During Veterans Day, one of the most common greetings that some veterans hear from people is the phrase ‘thank you for your service’. Now, there is nothing complicated about this phrase because it is simply someone thanking a veteran for the service he or she has provided as a service member. But is it a welcomed ‘thank you’?

For veterans, hearing ‘thank you for your service’, though well-intentioned, is not always well-received. Some feel the ‘thank you’ is superficial and insincere coming from strangers. As well, hearing it sometimes brings back uncomfortable or sad memories they’ve worked hard to get passed.

However, this is probably surprising to most non-military people. As someone who hasn’t served in the military, you generally want to show appreciation to those who have. This is the reason for saying ‘thank you’ after all.

Yet, some veterans actually get tired of hearing ‘thank you for your service’ not because they think they deserve better, but because they have different beliefs concerning the wars that they had to fight. And hearing ‘thank you’ from those who have no idea what they went through doesn’t seem quite right.

Who Are Our Veterans?

According to the US Census Bureau there are about 18 million Veterans as of 2018 (down a third from 2000). Today’s Veterans make up less than 8% of the US population.

Other facts of Veterans:

  • About 9 percent of Vets are women
  • There are less than 500,000 Vets alive who served in WW2 (as of 2018).
  • The largest cohort of Vets served in Vietnam, while the second largest cohort did no ‘wartime’ service.
  • Median age of Vets is 65 (as of 2018).
  • Vets from recent service periods are the most educated.

As well, our Vets experience a high rate of depression in comparison to the non-Vet population. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated 1 in 3 Veterans have met with their primary care doctor about depression symptoms; 1 in 5 continue therapy and 1 in 8-10 experience major depression.

What Are We Thanking Soldiers and Veterans For?

A movie and book of the title, Thank You For Your Service, focuses on the struggles of soldiers transitioning from ‘soldier life’ to civilian society.

One problem some have with Veterans Day is what is actually being honored. Likewise, soldiers being ‘thanked’ often are confused as to what they’re being ‘thanked for’.

When people say to soldiers or Veterans, ‘thank you for your service’, they mean thank you for giving your time to help your country and making a sacrifice so that others may benefit. Soldiers and Veterans are often confused being thanked by strangers, but it is well-meaning, if also naïve.

A lot of young men and women join the armed forces not because they want to fight in wars (that’s hardly ever the case) but because they believe in what the Constitution stands for and that they are willing to lay their lives on the line to fight for fellow countrymen.

In a sense, it is the belief that they are fighting for something worth fighting for that convinced them to serve in the armed forces.

An episode on Curb Your Enthusiasm has ‘character’ Larry David questioning how many people need to thank a soldier for their service.

But the thing about some of Veterans is that they don’t like getting thanked for their service. Some feel odd being thanked by people they don’t know (since often, strangers approach soldiers in uniform to ‘thank them’). Others feel like those thanking them have no idea what ‘real soldiers’ endure, and only imagine what movies and books tell them.

Other times, there are Veterans who went through such hardships and atrocities of war time service or serving in areas so bleak that saying ‘thank you’ just brings about bad memories.

In times like this, it’s understandable why Veterans might have problems with being ‘thanked.’ It’s also understandable why they may not like Veterans Day at all!

Other ‘Hopeful Holidays’ articles to check out:

Should you not say, ‘Happy Veterans Day’? 

So, if you probably shouldn’t say ‘thank you for your service’ to a veteran during Veterans Day, does that mean that you should say ‘happy Veterans Day’ instead? Not necessarily.

Saying ‘Happy Veterans Day’ is tricky. Because Veterans Day is not marking festive and joyous moments, using ‘happy’ can be considered inappropriate. That being said, not acknowledging Veterans Day can seem ungrateful especially when encountering military personnel, so use it thoughtfully if you do.

To help you discern whether or not to say ‘happy’ alongside ‘Veterans Day’, think about the context. If you are at an event honoring or celebrating service members or Veterans, then you could acknowledge them with ‘thanks’ or ‘happy’ but there are probably some better ways to express gratitude.

For example, you could say ‘I appreciate your sacrifice.’ Or you could say, ‘God bless you.’ You could also simply smile and shake their hand, if the moment warrants it.

Let’s face it, Veterans Day brings about a lot of baggage. It’s not that we shouldn’t honor Veterans and appreciate what they did. No, we absolutely want to honor them, but we should do so respectfully. So the next time you attend a Veterans celebration, look toward the Veterans around you as your cue to how to act or handle the day.

Wrapping Up Why Some People Say ‘I Hate Veterans Day’

To wrap up this topic, don’t think ‘I hate Veterans Day’ is synonymous with ‘I hate Veterans.’ Instead, those who may think or say, ‘I hate Veterans Day’ are often Veterans themselves!

People who struggle with Veterans Day usually do so out of respect and concern for Veterans. Often our celebrations to commemorate Veterans on Veterans Day are in contrast to what Veterans have gone through and dealt with as military members.

Parades, parties, and shopping discounts don’t really show reverence and respect to Veterans and certainly aren’t equitable compensation for their military sacrifice. Yet, not acknowledging them in some way falls short, too!

So, keep all of this in mind on the next Veterans Day and of course, the next time you thank a Veteran for his service!

More ‘Hopeful Holidays’ articles you might like:

Sources: The Atlantic; NPR

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