“You’re a veteran? Well, thank you very much for your service.”

More than three decades after the Vietnam War, and many more after the WWII and Korean conflicts, people became eager to express thanks to those of us who served in the military. This practice seemed to start just as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars heated up; wars which created more military veterans.

Those who expressed their thanks unexpectedly made me feel awkward shaking their hands, as if I were a veteran with a Purple Heart or a Distinguished Service Cross. I felt like an imposter, but I was gracious and said “thank you” for their “thank you,” my rather peaceful life in the military still safe.

I am a Vietnam War-era Army veteran, schooled first in basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, with an M-16 and a tossed — and hopefully accurate — grenade. I then trained as a medic at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. I finished my four-year military stint at an Army hospital in Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

I am not a combat veteran, a special category of war-era veteran who I define as soldiers who likely came face-to-face with an enemy or artillery shell looking to kill them first. Nowhere will you find the word “combat” in my Army biography.

I had it sweet in the service. Not that I didn’t lay on my bunk many nights wondering what my orders the next day might bring. The most anxious time was at the end of our medic training, when 60 or so of us got our orders to go somewhere else.

As it turned out, one quarter got orders for Vietnam, one half for Germany or South Korea and one quarter for further training, a sort of graduate school for medics. I was in the latter category, to be stationed at the lawn-manicured Fort Sam Houston for one more year, and finally transferred to the manicured Fort Devens.

Feeling fake, I didn’t march in Veterans Day parades or attend celebration breakfasts. I did not adorn my license plates with the word “veteran.” I don’t even own any remnants of Army life, especially my long-obsolete waist-size-32 Class A uniforms.

The only thing I still mention is that I was a medic in the Army since it began my long and successful career in health care.

This essay isn’t about how I wish I had been in combat. As a medic, I saw the downstream effect on combat soldiers who came back stateside from war with horrendous physical and emotional disabilities; that cleared away my romantic ideas of heroic battles. I thank goodness for the Army decision-makers who overlooked me when it came time to anoint which soldier went to war. It felt like a simple — and unfair — roll of the dice.

As I do every year, I sent a happy Veterans Day email or text to those friends who are veterans. But I was stymied this year.

Tom is a friend of a friend who I met a couple of times over the years. He is a friendly and gregarious fellow, a church-going member of his community; that’s where my friend met him. We both were medics during the Vietnam War era, but Army decision-makers randomly picked him to go overseas and me to further training in the states.

There is much to Tom’s backstory that I suspect is fascinating. But he had a horrific experience in Vietnam as a medic, rendering him almost incapable of talking about the trauma he often faced. He has revealed only bits and pieces to our mutual friend.

This year, like past Veterans Days, Tom was in Washington, D.C. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, doing his part reading out loud the roster of names of veterans who died as a result of combat in Vietnam. And here I was sitting with my smart phone wondering whether sending a simple happy Veterans Day message to him felt adequate.

Here is what I texted:

“Tom, I wanted you to know I am thinking of you on this Veterans Day. Mike”

Here is what he texted back:

“Thank you, Mike. And thank you for your service to our country. I’m proud to know you.”

Tom, the combat medic, thanked me for my service to our country. And he is proud of me.

I am awed by that simple message. How gracious of him to help me feel less fake and more proud of my being even a small part of the military.

And thank you for your service, Tom. Your simple message means so much more to me than you can know. A simple but fateful roll of the dice also made you a more gracious man than I will ever be.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.