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A note for veterans - We have your backs

November 11, 2009

The tragedy at Fort Hood last week reminds us of two things: One is the constant danger of military life, and the other is the constant stress weighing not just on soldiers, but on their families as well.

Even the relative safety of the home base, sadly, no longer can be taken for granted. Nor should the service of any member of the armed forces be taken for granted, not just on Veterans Day, but all year round.

A day in the life of a military man or woman can be wildly unpredictable - wars are notorious for long stretches of boredom, punctuated by explosive adrenaline rushes of battle, or tense encounters with the unknown, where an enemy or minefield might, or might not, be present.

This is a difficult way to live life. It pays for the rest of us to know it, acknowledge it and pay tribute to it, even when the wars in which our soldiers are fighting are difficult to understand. When we refer to "the service," it is always paramount to remember that it is us that they are serving, or have served.

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Soldiers past and present are the guardian angels of our collective freedoms and for each of us individually. We can't appropriately pay them back, but we can recognize what they do and offer our thanks and our concern for their well-being.

When they are assigned to some remote outpost in hostile lands, they need to know they are not alone. They need to feel our presence and our support.

When causes seem hopeless and wars unwinnable and situations are beyond our comprehension, it is hard to find meaning as casualties mount. Those who lose loved ones might feel that these deaths served no purpose and those who served in combat could feel unappreciated, even bitter.

But this is no taint on heroism. Causes might, at times, be controversial or even misguided or futile, but the men and women who give their lives for these causes, as Abraham Lincoln said, never sacrifice in vain and must never be forgotten.

In most every armed conflict in our history, America has stood for something - something good. We have fought against tyrants. We have fought against repression. We have fought for freedom, we have fought for the weak. We have fought to give people better lives - not just for our own people, but for the lives of people around the globe. Here, there can be no such thing as waste. There is only nobility.

In Washington County alone, 12 percent of the adult population has served. They stand a little taller than the rest of us because in their lives, they have pursued not just their own interests, but ours as well. We are grateful. We are also grateful to their families for enduring what they must when their loved ones are away and their fates uncertain. We offer them a hand as well.

These soldiers and families are in our thoughts and prayers, not just today because it's Veterans Day, but tomorrow and all of the tomorrows that follow, because we honor and revere what they do for us. May their hard work be made a little lighter knowing that a nation of respectful people has their backs.

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