My mind always seems to meander on November 11th. It usually begins at Versailles at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918. Then it’s off to a tour of courage and sacrifice: Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Bastogne, Ia Drang. Soon my thoughts drift to those who gave all they had, who never came home. Some are merely men from stories and history books; some, like my grandfather, I wish I had known; and some are classmates and friends with whom I served. I see their smiles, the light in their eyes, and wonder, “what if?” Then there are the living sacrifices, friends who survived, but returned not quite whole. Finally, into my mind come the faces of friends and family who still wear the uniform, who still stand on the line.
To them all I say, “Thank you.”
It’s good to take this day to honor those who stand in harm’s way on our behalf. But I urge you to do so knowing that they don’t just stand there one day a year or when we think of them. They are there every day and every night, securing the life we live.
I challenge you to honor the sacrifice they live by taking advantage of the gift they give: live a life well led. Don’t do it out of guilt or in any attempt to pay them back (the sacrifice is freely given), but with joyous gratitude for the freedom and opportunity that you enjoy everyday. That’s the best way to honor their service.
And, of course, thank them when you see them.