Thank a veteran on Veterans’ Day

Have you thanked a veteran today?

We are blessed, as Americans, to live in a nation gifted with rights and freedoms envied the world over. Those rights and freedoms did not come cheaply. Have you thanked a veteran today?

We are the beneficiaries of a struggle for independence from which we emerged as a nation of many states joined together as one shining republic. Have you thanked a veteran today?

We rise every morning empowered by a land of opportunities made rich and plentiful by a vigorous and open economic, agricultural, and industrial marketplace. We enjoy a bounty of goods and services unmatched in all the world. Have you thanked a veteran today?

We expand our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us in myriad kindergartens, elementary, middle, and high schools, and institutions of higher learning unparalleled in their accessibility to virtually every citizen who seeks the keys to education. Have you thanked a veteran today?

As we have just demonstrated to the world, Americans choose the men and women who represent us in our local, state, and national governments—from county commissioners to the President. And any of us who seeks office, or who has an opinion about those who do, is encouraged and welcomed to take to the floor of the political arena—small or great—defining the very essence of our unique and enduring democracy. Have you thanked a veteran today?

We constantly refill and express our creative spirits in countless libraries, theaters, auditoriums, museums, and galleries wherein our literary, performing, and visual arts are displayed in all their variety, uncensored, and open to all. Have you thanked a veteran today?

We clash on the gridirons of 10,000 stadiums; we shoot for the hoops on countless inner-city courts and in mighty arenas; we swing for the fences of small town diamonds and the walls of Major League ball parks; we run, we swim, we play, we exert ourselves individually and competitively in a nation where we are free as men and women and boys and girls to celebrate the independent spirit of athletics. Have you thanked a veteran today?

And we bow our heads, kneel on prayer rugs, and lift our voices in holy songs in mighty cathedrals, elegant churches, simple chapels, and in synagogues and mosques all across our nation, secure in the knowledge that our beliefs are sacred and our right to worship in our own way—or not to worship at all—is revered and protected. Have you thanked a veteran today?

At day’s end, we sit down to dinner, in communities large and small, and share with our neighbors the immutable constancy of our freedom to raise our families under liberty’s open skies, and to fall asleep beneath the comforting blankets of our democracy. Have you thanked a veteran today?

Today, Veterans Day 2004, let us seize this opportunity and offer our heartfelt “thank you” to America’s former soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guards. For 228 years, they protected the rich and seamless fabric of freedom woven on the loom of conflict, washed in the blood of patriots, and preserved in times of peace through their fidelity in service to the cause of liberty.

Forty-eight million of our fellow citizens earned our gratitude by donning our nation’s uniform. They are our ancestors laid down in their eternal resting places. They are the “Greatest Generation.” They are our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our neighbors, and our countrymen across the nation. They are our warriors still missing in action, and they are our former prisoners of war finally released to liberty’s loving arms. And they are our armed forces on the front lines of freedom half a world away.

On this Veterans’ Day, we thank them all.

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