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We were eating at a fast food place last week in Cheyenne. Across from us were three young people in uniform, and when they got up to leave we thanked them for their service. That’s something we go out of our way to do, and it seems so little compared to the sacrifices they are making.

These young folks, a man and two women, looked so very young. At my age, many people look pretty young, but most of our soldiers truly are. Two young women in our family, who joined the military after graduation last spring, already seem a lot older than their peers who have gone off to college, but why not? Students are mostly just responsible for themselves, if that, but military personnel are responsible for all of us.

We are fortunate to live in an area where schools and community organizations make sure to honor the veterans in our midst. Students are encouraged to take part in programs on Veteran’s Day almost from kindergarten on, and most parents make a point of teaching their youngsters to respect those who have made our freedom possible. It’s not that way everywhere in our nation, which is why we need to go out of our way to express thanks and appreciation to people in uniform when we encounter them.

I’m a little sensitive about this, probably because I can recall World War Two. I learned to read at age four, from the Blucher Boot catalog and a pamphlet that depicted the medals of all the military branches. I was shown pictures of the kind of plane my uncle flew, and the meaning of the “wings” lapel pin my grandmother wore proudly was clearly explained to me.

When I began grade school in the hamlet of Seneca, there were a handful of young men upstairs in the senior class who had recently been discharged from the army and come back to finish the education they had interrupted in order to serve. If some fellows in our community acted a little strangely I was instructed to treat them gently because they had been “shell shocked” or gassed, in the war.

My children’s father and his brothers all served in the military. The draft was still in effect and it was a given that the boys in my graduating class would either enlist in order to choose the branch they would affiliate with, or take a job to mark time until they were called up. We weren’t that far removed from “the bomb,” and under no illusions that our world would remain safe.

Today, the young men and women who put on a uniform do it voluntarily, which makes it even more important that we recognize and commend them for their decisions. The world is no safer now than it was when I was young; probably less so, but the difference is that a lot of us take freedom for granted. We haven’t had to personally sacrifice to keep it, as in the days of my youth.

I hope you thanked a veteran on their day of honor this week. Please, always show your gratitude and respect to those have our backs in a dangerous and confusing world.

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