Bridging the gap between military and civilian communities may be easier than it seems. The answer: Just say “thanks.”

Okay, so maybe it’s not that easy, but according to retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, it’s a good start.

“In my 28 years in the Navy, the most rewarding thing I received, more important than awards, was the appreciation of the American people,” Thorp said in an online chat Wednesday. “It means so much when someone approaches a service member and says, ‘Thanks for your service’ and engages in a conversation.”

Thorp, who is now employed by USO, said his organization considers bridging the gap between these two communities as one of the most important things it does. Apparently, the Department of Defense agrees.

In an attempt to promote understanding of the military community in a civilian world, the Department of Defense is hosting events like “Navy Week” and sponsoring speakers at local civic groups like the Rotary Club.

“That is what is so great about the White House initiative ‘Joining Forces,’ ” Thorp said. “They are trying to get more stories out there about military families.”

So how does one bridge the gap between the communities? This chat seemed to suggest a mix of things, but mostly that the gap can be closed just by both sides being understanding and supportive.

Or by going to football games.

“This is a great example of how the actual bridge between the military and the community is so much stronger than it used to be,” Thorp said after a St. John’s College alumnus wrote in about attending the St. John’s College vs. Navy football game with his cousin-in-law – who just happens to be a Navy commander.

“I’m glad you are going to go, and are restraining glee, but I have to say, ‘Go Navy!’ ” Thorp said.

“The Mil Life” chat series takes place every Wednesday at noon ET. See what’s coming up next by taking a look at the Live Q&A schedule.