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Thank You, All the Veterans

Tomorrow is Veterans Day.

A lot of people confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. Whereas Memorial Day honors those who served in our nation’s military and gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives and therefore deserve special recognition and honor, Veterans Day honors all who have served regardless of their level of service or degree of sacrifice or even if they were never involved in combat or never served during an armed conflict.

Sometimes we honor the former without giving a second thought to the latter, and that’s sad. Both categories, however, are critical to the defense of our nation and the freedoms we enjoy.

The buck private who peels potatoes in the back of the mess hall and never gets closer to an enemy than a history book and the seaman second class who is swabbing the deck of a destroyer or cleaning the head of an oil tanker during peacetime are as valuable and as necessary as the elite soldier who raids the enemy camp or the highest-ranking admiral who strategizes from behind a desk in the Pentagon. The truck driver who transports the food, ammunition, and supplies to a front-line outpost or a rear-echelon base back home is important. The soldier who mans a lonely weather station in the frozen Arctic or on a postage-stamp-sized, weather-beaten Aleutian island is important. Every member of our armed forces–Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard–is important, no matter what their pay grade or job assignment or time or place of service. And they all deserve our thanks and appreciation. That’s what Veterans Day is for.

We are fast losing our veterans of World War II and Korea. The Vietnam vets are aging quickly. We now have veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and countless little “police actions” around the world. They, too, deserve our thanks. Now. Someone once commented that we shouldn’t wait to attend a friend’s funeral to show how much he or she meant to us. Rather, we should tell that person of our appreciation now, while he or she is still with us.

If you know or see a military veteran today, tomorrow–or any day–let him or her know you appreciate the service they’ve rendered you. Yes, in serving their country, they are serving you and me individually.

To “prime the pump” a bit, I’ll set the example: Thank you, Joshua Peterson (my great, great grandfather), for your service during the War Between the States. Thank you, Uncle Dillon, for your army service in World War II. Thank you, Cousins Burl and Kyle, for your air force service during war and peace following World War II. Thank you, Captain Justin Peterson (USMC) for paying the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. Thank you, Joshua Peterson, for serving in Iraq and accompanying your brother’s body back home and for the service you rendered stateside afterward. And thank you, LT. Commander Brandon Geddes, for treating the teeth of all those other sailors there in Okinawa.

Thank you to all our nation’s veterans!

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