Among our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members are men and women to whom we owe heartfelt gratitude today. In view of what they have done for us, a simple "thank you" is little enough in return.
It is Veterans Day, the time once a year when we Americans are supposed to pause and reflect on the cost of our freedom and prosperity. It is a time when we are reminded there are certain debts we can never repay.
How is it possible to repay the co-worker who is back to work after a year on active duty with the Army Reserve? She limps a bit now, because of a wound suffered as she went to the aid of a fellow soldier shot in Afghanistan.
Is it even possible for us to understand the thoughts today of the older gentleman who sits near us in church, perhaps recalling the terror of watching as kamikaze pilots dived their planes at his ship in 1944?
What can we say or do to make up for the time - and much more - lost by the uncle who won't talk about the Korean War? No one would know he served, but for the fact he still stiffens with pride whenever the "Marine Hymn" is played?
There is the fellow in the neighborhood who, years ago, nailed a flagstaff holder to one of the posts on his porch. He displays the black-and-white POW-MIA flag not out of abstract patriotism, but in remembrance of a wingman who never came back after a mission over Hanoi.
And we notice the almost out-of-place maturity in the 30-ish college student who struggles in art appreciation class, but should have earned an honorary doctorate in heroism while saving lives as a Coast Guardsman.
These men and women, all around us, are veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. They are and have been part of the most powerful armed force on the planet - in large measure not due to superior technology, but because they are Americans. That one-word description means something to them.
It should to us, too. To them, we owe our very way of life - perhaps life itself. Today, then, as a nation, let us ponder the sacrifices they have made for us. And let us honor them from the heart.