What To Tell Veterans On Veterans Day When Offering A Patriotic Gift
Veterans Day is rapidly approaching and, as you would expect, our patriotic themed gifts are quite the hit this time of year. So, whereas we don’t have any worries about selling enough products this time of year, we do often worry about the messaging that comes with our gift. For example, every Veterans Day it is well known that veterans of all eras will be offered free meals at local restaurant chains. We’re not sure who started it first, but Applebee’s was early on in that game and either out of guilt or marketing value, just about every other restaurant in the nation jumped on the bandwagon. It’s a nice enough gesture, though the messaging often comes across as “thank you for your service, but only thank you from the special menu type of thanks.” Not to mention, you still have to buy your own drinks. We understand denying free alcohol as the veteran community would bankrupt any establishment that did so. However, the rigidly defined parameters of each special menu does come across as a little disingenuous and gimmicky. Veterans still take them up on the offer and appreciate it, but there is a lack of sincerity about the whole deal. With that in mind, we’d like to take a few minutes of your time and offer some suggestions on how you might message the patriotic gift that you are about to purchase for the warrior in your life.
If You Say “Thank You For Your Service” You’re Going To Get A Canned Answer
Nearly all of us veterans have one as a canned response is just about the best you can offer in return to the ubiquitous, “thank you for your service.” Personally, this veteran just responds with, “No problem, it was a good time.” As veterans, we just hear this phrase too much for it to have any genuine impact. That’s not a slight on those who say it as most truly don’t know what to say in that situation. It is just the reality of repetition and overuse that dampens the impact.
Much like the free chicken strips from Applebees, veterans didn’t serve for the applause and we certainly are not expecting any gifts in return. The reality is that we all signed up for different reasons and our experience during our service varies to a great degree. One veteran getting free chicken strips may have never left the continental United States and the veteran eating beside could have been on 4 to 6 deployments during the Global Wars on Terror where he saw combat every time.
One Marine may have earned his Combat Action Ribbon because a mortar landed in his general vicinity and another Marine earned his by kicking in doors on the streets of Fallujah.. All of our experiences were different and as such, we just give a canned answer to the ubiquitous “thanks for your service.”
Using What You Know About the Veteran To Properly Message The Patriotic Gift
Because veteran experiences vary wildly, you would do well to avoid making certain assumptions. For instance, you may say something about Iraq or Afghanistan when the veteran never actually deployed and has some misplaced guilt about the matter. Truthfully, veterans deploy when they are told to deploy and it's not their fault if they didn’t. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop some veterans from feeling guilty over the matter.
So, let’s start with what you do know about the veteran. Branch of service is a great place to start. Don’t call a Marine a soldier and there is a difference between an officer and enlisted. You may not know whether or not they deployed to a combat zone, but you may know that they signed up after 9-11. If so, you can always say that you admired how they joined after 9-11 knowing full well what it could mean.
You may know that they deployed, but you don’t know if they saw combat. So, don’t bring that up. Tell them that you appreciate them heading off to foreign lands to protect us all, even if those foreign lands were just Kuwait in an air conditioned building. The point is that you can work with what you know to personalize the message with the gift.
Great Phrases To Use When Gifting A Patriotic Gift To A Veteran
Hopefully, we’ve already scratched off “thank you for your service” from your messaging options. Again, don’t feel bad if you’ve said that in the past. We just hear it a lot. Instead, why not offer up a patriotic gift and say, “I saw this and it made me think of you.” Remember, the average veteran is not expecting a gift on Veterans Day or any day for that matter.
Why are you giving them a patriotic themed pledge of allegiance whiskey glass? Well, you tell them you thought of them when you saw this because you remember how they signed up for military service immediately after 9-11. You tell them that when some kids recited the pledge of allegiance, it was clear that you really meant it.
Another great phrase to use when gifting a patriotic gift to a veteran when gifting a whiskey glass or a .50 caliber hand blown pint glass is that they deserve a good beer more than most. That takes the awkwardness of a “thank you for your service” and gives them something very specific to reply. Such phrases are an easy and classy way to thank a veteran in a way that they won’t see coming and as such, will appreciate with greater depth and sincerity.
When In Doubt, Sit Down And Let Them Tell Their Story
We believe that the primary reasons that veterans show up for free chicken strips on Veterans Day has nothing to do with the free food. Rather, it has more to do with their desire to be among their fellow veterans and talk shop for a day. To remember the good times and even celebrate the suck of the bad times. It is to be immersed in a culture that shaped their lives, even if just for the lunch hour.
So, if you are giving a patriotic gift to a veteran, sit down and talk with them for a bit. Don’t pry too deep, but let them talk about what they are yearning to talk about. Ask them basic questions like what their MOS (military occupational specialty) and perhaps what their rank was when they got out. If it comes up organically in the conversation that they deployed, maybe respond with “fascinating, I’d love to hear more about your experience if that’s ok”.
What Kind Of Patriotic Gifts Do Veterans Enjoy?
Finally, let’s get to the good stuff and that is the gifts themselves. There is a reason why we didn’t start up another veteran owned t-shirt company and that’s because we think that market is fairly well covered. The veteran booze and whiskey market is wide open as far as we can tell. It’s no secret that your average veteran enjoys a good drink and great firearms. So, we put them all together in one package.
Perhaps you give them an Old Southern Brass whiskey glass engraved with their rank and branch of service? This does require you to have some advanced knowledge of their service and you might have to ask some easy probing questions ahead of time. What branch were you in again? What was your rank when you got out? These are easy questions you can ask in passing and just chalk it up to general curiosity.
If you don’t have the information you need, then perhaps you just give them a .50 caliber BMG bullet bottle opener and say, “I saw this and thought of you.” Personally, we don’t think that we offer a single product that veterans wouldn’t enjoy. Though we do offer gifts for groomsmen, that would be a little awkward if there was no wedding. Then again, the veteran can still drink whiskey out of them and so all would be forgiven quickly.
Final Thoughts For The Veteran Receiving The Gift
As much as we would love to sell you a patriotic gift every single year, we again remind you that veterans are not expecting gifts on Veterans Day or any other day for their service. They are content to let the experience of their service be the gift. However, they will appreciate it when you offer it and particularly, if you do it right.
Pick the right gift and give them an entire set because you saw it and thought of them. Message the gift properly while avoiding the ubiquitous “thank you for your service.” In general, just show genuine appreciation and give them an opportunity to talk about their service in a manner that they feel comfortable. If you decide to take them out for some free Veterans Day chicken strips in the process, what the hell, go for it. Just be sincere when you give your patriotic gift to your veteran and the rest will take care of itself. Now, shop away and feel free to reach out if you have any questions.