Over the last few years I have noticed that more and more people thank me for my service. At first it was somewhat awkward, I did not know how to respond. I was a teenager who wanted to serve my country and see the world, why would they thank me? What was I suppose to say? You’re welcome just does not seem appropriate. Over time I have started saying “no problem” or what seems like the most standard for veterans- “I was just doing a job”.
Over time I have just come to accept it for what it is, a way for someone to show a little gratitude for sacrifices we have made. I have even noticed that veterans have started thanking each other. This seems to me like a verbal fist bump, as if saying “yeah, I understand”.
Last weekend, though, I received a thank you unlike any other I have heard. I was in Nashville and we had taken an Uber to get downtown. I ended up in the front seat and started a conversation with the driver. As it turned out he was Kurdish, I told him that I had been a part of Operation Provide Comfort and was stationed in Turkey after the first Gulf War. During this operation, U.S. and allied forces defended Iraqi Kurds and provided humanitarian relief.
It was dark and I could not see the driver’s face, but I heard his voice start crackling. He thanked me. He told me that I have no idea how many lives we had saved there. When he was 4 years old, Saddam Hussein’s forces bombed his village, killing his grandfather and 2 year old sister. One of his earliest memories is of the naked bodies of his family members and other victims being thrown into a mass grave on the same day of the bombing. I was in shock, no child should have to see this.
His enraged father became a leader in a humanitarian organization. Apparently, a fairly effective leader because a price was eventually put on his head. Bodyguards were a constant presence.
In 1996, they decided that they had had enough and immigrated to Nashville, Tennessee. Apparently, there is a large population of Kurdish immigrants in the area. So many that there is an area referred to as Little Kurdistan.
My driver now loves the area. He said that he once went back to his native land, but decided that the United States was now his home.
As the ride came to an end, he thanked me again and gave us some advice on places to go while we were in town. (if you are in the area make sure to check out Peg Leg Porker Bar-b-Que).
This is the one thank you that will always stand out to me. It wasn’t awkward, it was the most sincere one I have ever received. To my Uber driver, Shorishvan, you are very welcome!