(The Hill) — A majority of younger veterans said they feel uncomfortable when they are told “thank you for your service,” a new poll found.
Ahead of Veterans Day on Saturday, a survey found disparities between young military members and their older counterparts in how they prefer to be recognized for their service.
Among younger military members and veterans — age 18 to 29 — 70 percent said they feel uncomfortable or awkward when they are thanked for their service. Only 24 percent of older members, 65 years and up, say the same, the Endeavor Analytics and YouGov poll found.
“This data shows that military service members and our veterans want Americans to go beyond small talk to connect with them on a deeper level, including learning more about their service, honoring each veteran’s service in ways in which they feel comfortable talking about it,” Robert F. Whittle Jr., retired Army major general and United Services Automobile Association (USAA) chief of staff, said in a statement.
USAA announced it would introduce a new campaign ahead of this year’s Veterans Day that encourages Americans to “Go Beyond Thanks” to honor military members.
The organization said it hopes the campaign will “create real, positive impacts in the community.” The campaign is intended to encourage conversations about mental health for veterans and military members. The organization also launched other efforts in 2023 to support suicide prevention and break the stigma of seeking mental health help.
“We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude, but we also owe it to them to build a supportive community around them,” USAA President Wayne Peacock said in a statement. “And that community must find ways to have meaningful and tangible impacts on our veterans’ lives. That’s our duty, and it’s why we are advocating for the public to go beyond traditional words of gratitude on Veterans Day.”
The survey also found that older military members are 76 percent more likely than younger members to connect with one another in person for the holiday.
According to the survey results, 28 percent of respondents who were civilians do not know why Veterans Day is celebrated.
Veterans Day is always observed on Nov. 11, but because that date falls on a Saturday this year, the federal holiday will be observed Friday.
The annual day of remembrance honors members of the military and has been a day of reflection since World War I. It’s observed on Nov. 11 because the armistice between Germany and the Allied nations went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Originally called Armistice Day, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954.
The Endeavor Analytics and YouGov survey was conducted Sept. 22-Oct. 11.