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Celebrating the brave among us

How fortuitous it is that this week, while the attention of millions of Americans seems focused on controversy, we take time out to honor those about whom we are in complete agreement: veterans of military service.

No matter how we view politics, we are united in revering the men and women who have served and do serve us in uniform. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are the solid wall behind which our freedoms rest.

They serve us not as Democrats, Republicans, Independents or adherents to any particular political philosophy. They serve us simply as Americans.

It is their steadfast, pure patriotism that we celebrate this Veterans Day.

Even during peacetime, they make enormous sacrifices for us. In effect, they take years off from their lives to go where they are asked to go and do what they are asked to do.

Sometimes that takes them to foreign lands. Sometimes it places them aboard ships on lengthy cruises. Sometimes it means their posts are right here in the United States, but far from their homes. Families, friends, old school chums and former co-workers are seen only infrequently.

Their families become their brothers and sisters in arms.

Because the military must be on guard constantly, the jobs they do come with inherent risk. The regularity of reports that servicemen and women are killed or injured in training accidents or even during the course of normal duties reminds us of that.

During times of conflict, be they full-scale wars or armed confrontations that may not even make news, of course, everything changes. It is then that our foes learn, invariably, why the American military is respected and usually feared throughout the world.

And it is then that we whose liberties are being safeguarded are reminded just how important our men and women in uniform are to us.

There are fewer veterans among us this year than last, simply because of the number who served during World War II.

This Veterans Day, we have among us an estimated 17.4 million who wear or once wore the uniform. That is about 1.4 million fewer than last year.

Expressing our gratitude to them grows more important by the day.

This week, we do just that. We honor — and thank, from the bottoms of our hearts — those who served and have served.

And this Veterans Day, we pray that God will watch over and keep them with same kind of steadfastness they showed for us.

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