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What to say to a veteran

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    After casting his vote, 86-year-old World War II Navy Veteran Robert Carper waits for his wife at the Cave Spring precinct at the Church of the Holy Spirit, in Roanoke County, Va. (AP/The Roanoke Times)

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    Nov. 11, 2012: President Barack Obama presents a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery during a Veterans Day ceremony in Arlington, Va. (AP)

Thank you for stepping forward when others step back.

Thank you for placing yourself between us and danger.

Thank you for delaying plans for college, marriage, and other opportunities and choosing to serve.

Thank you for braving the unspeakable horrors of war.

Thank you for sacrificing time with your families and missing those significant milestones the rest of us take for granted.

Thank you to your spouses who find themselves living nomadic lives, often far away from the support of loved ones.

Thank you to your children who accept your absence as a way of life and understand they share you with a nation and sometimes the world.

Thank you to your parents who have nothing but prayers to protect you and must now trust you will be safe and that we will offer the best we have to you.

Thank you for continuing to support your country once you leave military service by following new careers and becoming the teachers, clergy, business owners, employees, pilots, civil servants and so much more that we need to be a successful society.

Thank you for involving yourself in your local community, your state, and your country, helping us to solve problems and to create a vision for our future using the skills you learned during your tour of duty.  

Thank you for being a conscience to our nation.

Thank you for serving as a heroic example of who we are and what we can dream to be.

Thank you for your service.

Author’s note:  My friend Kim Adams Lowe inspired this column.  Kim is a Korean War veteran’s daughter, a former Air Force officer and an Air Force spouse.  Over the years of our friendship, I have heard her say, “Thank you for your service,” to airmen serving as color guards, to military men and women traveling on leave, and to a barbershop quartet whose members are retired military. She has even said it to me.  “One year or twenty,” she announces when I comment on her greeting, “they all deserve it.”

She’s right.

The military can be a grand life, but there isn’t a fighter squadron, destroyer, or combat team that doesn’t know what it is like to lose people. Even in peacetime, soldiering is dangerous work and always has been.

Please, let us never forget that freedom comes at a price.

Cathy Maxwell is a former US Navy officer and New York Times best-selling author of over thirty Avon/HarperCollins romances. For more information on Maxwell and her books go to www.cathymaxwell.com.