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Pause today to thank our veterans

Posted: November 11, 2012 - 1:01am

Veterans Day, 2012, is an opportunity to once again recognize the significant contributions of the millions of our citizens whose military service has had a profound effect on history. It is an opportunity to remember all the freedoms we, the people of this great nation, are fortunate enough to enjoy.

It is an opportunity to thank those who have answered the call of duty to protect those freedoms, to honor them and show our gratitude for their sacrifices.

Veterans Day is that special day, 11-11, of every year set aside to thank, honor and “salute” all men and women, past and present, who served in the United States armed forces, the special day we take time to reflect on the valor, the bravery and the sacrifices of all Americans who have served to protect and secure the many freedoms and liberties that we enjoy today.

Many have been called, many have suffered the shock and pain of battle, some of whom are disabled for life, and many have made the “ultimate sacrifice.” All have given some of the best years of their lives. Why did they do it?

Simply because there was a job to be done and they were the ones called upon to do it. What was the result of their sacrifice? Simply this: America, to this day, remains a free country.

On Veterans Day, we honor every patriotic man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of our country – Americans who stepped out of the crowd and swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This man or woman could be someone in your own family, a neighbor, a friend or even yourself.

On Veterans Day, we join together in a common cause, a salute to all who have served together for freedom and for liberty. All have faced the greatest test that can be applied to American citizenship: being willing to risk your life to defend your country. Every man and woman who put on the wartime military uniform of the United States and served with honor has passed this test of citizenship.

Veterans Day forces most Americans to pause and reflect the cost of this test and then say, “thank you” to this nation’s veterans for their service and sacrifice.

We also want to remember and thank the many men and women who are now serving our country here and around the world. To those young Americans in uniform right now, all around the globe, we say “Godspeed.” Our prayers and our sincere wishes for your safe return go out to you.

We must never forget that these heroes are tomorrow’s veterans. We must remember that the way we treat today’s veterans sends a powerful message to our active-duty troops about how we will honor their sacrifice after they leave military service.

We may be uncertain about many things in America today, but we should have no reason to be uncertain about the respect and honor we owe to those who have served this nation in times of war.

We must remember that America is No. 1, thanks to our veterans.

(Pete Wheeler is the Georgia commissioner for Veterans Affairs.)

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