On a wall, a picture hangs – a wooden frame plays host to a brave and generous smile, bright and laughing eyes, and a story just beginning. On the back of a car, bravery is portrayed in less than half a dozen words on a bumper sticker: “U.S. Armed Forces Veteran.” A ball cap or jacket passes me by in the aisle of the grocery store and I see “Vietnam,” and am filled with fear and gratitude. Camouflage fatigues take a seat near me at the airport and I am suddenly at a loss for words.

But bravery isn’t always displayed openly for us to recognize and acknowledge. We are surrounded by so many who have served our country. So very many – and each and every one a different story and every story plays out in time slow and yet time swift. One day at home sipping coffee sharing the stoop with a beloved dog, the next day overseas in a tent. One day a kid learning to drive with the goal of picking up a pizza or going on a date, the next day traveling on air, land or sea to protect a country. One day a picture on the wall with that brave smile as a journey in the military is begun, and the next day bravery is captured in a photo album on the shelve filled with memories from the years served.

Veterans Day has a different meaning for each of us. Ceremonies and events are held to honor our veterans. They are heartfelt and deeply meant, and at the same time we know these endeavors fall short of describing and displaying what we are thinking. A special breakfast sometimes is the best we can do because there is no way to truly show the depth and emotion of how we feel about our Veterans. “Thank You” is what we say – two very small words that barely scratch the surface of describing what we really feel. And I know the words fall short too for those who have served when honoring their brethren. How do you thank someone who bravely served by your side and shared the story with you as it unfolded and was written in the wind? I don’t know, but I can only imagine that there is an unspoken language, a nod of the head, a meeting of the eyes where all is said without saying anything at all.

And so somehow and in some way this Veteran’s Day and always gratefulness is expressed as best as possible for those who have served to protect America and the American Way. With deepest, heartfelt appreciation I extend these words to our Veterans: “Thank you.”

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