“He stood in the heat of the desert, keeping watch over our freedom.

She stood on the bow of a ship, keeping watch over our freedom.

They crept through the jungle, keeping watch over our freedom.

She worked furiously in a medical tent, keeping watch over our freedom.

He repaired a plane in the pouring rain, keeping watch over our freedom.

They sat around a table, praying for their loved one that crossed the ocean, keeping watch over our freedom.

Countless others have performed countless tasks, keeping watch over our freedom.

These are the courageous, the fearless, the self-sacrificing faces of our veterans and their families. They serve so that we may be free.

Words alone cannot convey my gratitude for our veterans, their families and their sacrifices. Thank you for standing on the line so that I can enjoy my freedom.

I hope and pray that we remember our veterans not just today, but every day. May we never take for granted the blessing it is to call ourselves Americans. A blessing that is a gift from God, delivered by the blood, sweat and tears of our veterans and active duty personnel.”

I originally posted the above text two years ago today. My feelings have not really changed – if anything, the past two years have served to increase my gratitude for our veterans. Especially given the end of the war in Afghanistan this past August.

Part of the reason my gratitude has grown is that I’m in the midst of reading a fantastic book by Cindy Ross entitled, “Walking Toward Peace: Veterans Healing On America’s Trails.” The book profiles several veterans that grapple with PTSD, most of it resulting from their military service. Reading the stories of these men and women has given me a greater understanding of the emotional toll our veterans bear. Many of them leave the physical battlefield only to walk into an internal, emotional battle. It’s a battle that only fellow veterans can truly understand and that is far too often forgotten.

I’ve gained a new appreciation for our veterans as a result of reading Ms. Ross’ book. Additionally, I’ve gained insight into the internal battle my “shell-shocked” grandfather fought after returning from the Pacific theater of World War II – a battle that reverberates through my family today. While we civilians can never truly understand the burden many of our veterans carry, we must not forget that they may continue to fight long after their active service has ended.

To that end, I would like to finish this post by saying thank you one last time. If you are a veteran, thank you again for your service. If you have a veteran in your life, I humbly request that you thank them on my behalf. If you are the spouse, child or parent of a veteran, thank you for your service as well.

On this Veteran’s Day I want to encourage each of you to thank a veteran every chance you get. I promise you I will do the same.