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Thanks veterans, wherever you are - Jason Smith

I have a particular jacket I love to wear in the fall and winter.

For the last couple of years, it's been my favorite jacket to wear in the colder months. It has an eagle across the back, and red and white stripes on the arms.

I fell in love with it when my wife bought it for me a few Christmases ago, because I thought it looked really cool.

Of course, I also loved the symbolism in the jacket, as a tribute to all things patriotic.

I grabbed the jacket out of my car one day this week, as I was preparing, mentally, to write this column. I knew I wanted to write something in conjunction with Veterans Day, but I wasn't sure of everything I wanted to say.

Strangely enough, putting the jacket on served as a final bit of inspiration for this writing. Still, I know that love for one's country, and honoring those who preserve our freedom, is about more than wearing a jacket with a flag on it.

When I was little, I didn't really know what Veterans Day was, or what it meant. I thought it was a day to remember only military personnel who had given their lives in service to our country.

As I got older, I began to develop a deeper understanding of the occasion -- in part, no doubt, to the fact that my brother joined the Navy when I was in junior high. It's easy to be somewhat detached from such concepts, until it hits home.

Certainly, Veterans Day is designed to honor those individuals who have died in some grand conflict or war, in defense of our freedom. But it's also designed to honor those who are still alive, serving in ways that don't necessarily involve being on the front lines in combat.

Sometimes, it seems we only hear about servicemen, and women, when one of them perishes on a battlefield. While I fully believe those individuals should be honored with as much reverence as we can muster, I don't want those who are still serving in uniform to be forgotten.

There's the Army helicopter mechanic stationed in the Middle East, who may never fire a shot at an enemy himself, but whose duties keep the rest of his group safe. There's the guy who works on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, watching planes take off and land without ever piloting one himself.

There's the Marine Corps recruiter, who works in Everytown, U.S.A., on behalf of an organization which, as of Tuesday, has personified honor and integrity for 234 years.

These individuals, and countless others like them, are part of what makes this country the freest nation the world has ever seen.

Honoring their service is something which should not be limited to one day a year, or highlighted only when one of them gives the ultimate sacrifice.

When we see someone in a military uniform, we should thank them profusely for what they do for us. We could buy a meal for them, offer to pray for them, or simply shake their hand. We could write letters to them, without regard for whether we will ever meet those who read them.

When we consider everything they do for us and for this country, a little gratitude isn't too much to ask.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.