Today we celebrate Veterans Day with mixed emotions. While we remain in awe of the service given our country by millions of citizens, both in times of peace and war, we know that no amount of speeches or ceremonies will address the ever growing need for more and more military personnel to prosecute ongoing wars and that questionable status of funding for the federal government’s Veterans Affairs department.

Unlike Memorial Day, which exists primarily to honor those veterans who have died, Veterans Day is a time to honor anyone who has served, living or dead. It has become in recent years a good excuse for some very good programs at local schools. Several schools in the area — notably Washington Middle in Clinton, Unity Christian in Fulton, Ill., and West Carroll Intermediate in Thomson, Ill., — have invited veterans into the school, to speak to students about their service and to listen to students perform patriotic songs.

Most importantly, they’re there to be thanked, to see the gratitude of a younger generation and to stand as an exhibit of the importance of military service. Many young men and women were not yet married when called to active duty in World War II or Korea. Those people were fighting for families they didn’t yet have, and it is proper for those who have enjoyed an America those veterans preserved to see firsthand the people who did so.

But let us not sell short the contributions of people whose time on active duty did not involve military conflict. They put on the same uniforms and agreed to the same duties as countless others before and after. That they were not called to fight means nothing — they were prepared to make that sacrifice. Many veterans fought, but all of them served.

We wish to extend our gratitude to those who have served and continue to do so. That we as a country have done away with the draft, resulting in a volunteer military, says something about our more recent veterans. People are choosing to serve, to give something to their country, to fight for the flag that flies over us all.

Please, take time to thank a veteran. Not just today, but every day. They have done something special and deserve every accolade.

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