As we reflect on what Veterans Day means to us, we are proud to share the messages and memories of so many Americans. We’ve been inundated with responses, but a common thread throughout is service to our country. We are proud to share the history of so many veterans, family members and grateful citizens who honor the service of our fighting men and women.

Here are their messages about service:

Christopher M.:

It is one of the most important days of the year; all the honor, heroism, candor to do the right thing no matter what. Today is a day to show respect to all veterans and their sacrifice.

Tom J.:

Veterans Day has always been one of our nation’s most important holidays, but now more than ever. The sacrifices made by our veterans for the security of our country are now under siege by a potential government ideology that would deny its integrity and veracity. Now more than ever we must stand up and defend our freedom by recognizing the importance of the national holiday and the significance its meaning has to the greatest nation on this earth.

God Bless America.

K.C.:

As a young boy I used to play Army with my friends and I see now how that set in motion my service with the 82nd Airborne later in life. What the day means to me is giving thanks to everyone who served this great nation, past and present, and the sacrifices made by a small group of selfless citizens who offered to make the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of freedom for the U.S.A. I’m honored and humbled to have been able to serve my country for 20 years and have no regrets. Thanks to every other veteran out there for their service!!! AATW!!!

Brian P.:

Veteran’s Day to me is about family serving country.

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My grandfather was an Army Private First Class in WWI and was reported KIA on July 28, 1918. His family received the telegram and letter from the Army. He had been severely wounded by a German machine gun. His unit took over 30 percent casualties that day. He had taken his dog tags off the night before because it was so hot. His family was notified in September that he was alive in an Army hospital.

My uncle was with the 106th Division which was decimated at the Battle of the Bulge. My uncle was taken off the line several weeks before because he had scarlet fever and was sent to an Army hospital.

My cousin was a USN Naval Flight Officer who served two combat tours on multiple carriers on Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam.

I served 26 years in the USAF and served in the Gulf in OEF and OIF and as a UN Peacekeeper in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Herzegovina.

My oldest son took a leave of absence from college, enlisted in the Marines, and did combat tours with the infantry in Ramadi, Iraq, and Marjah, Afghanistan.

Our youngest son is an Army captain with 5/7 CAV, 1st BCT, 3rd ID currently deployed to South Korea, and previously deployed to Kosovo.

It is all about service.

Pete G. (From Vermont):

Thirty plus years. Served all over the world. Retired as an 18Z. Culmination of a great career. Good times and bad, wet, cold and miserable, scared, hungry and sleepless… I wouldn’t change a thing. Especially the guys I’ve served with for three decades.

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For years I felt like an ambassador of sorts. Representing the U.S. Army, representing Special Forces, but most importantly, representing the U.S.A. I am proud of this country, warts and all. And primarily the Constitution, which I swore to uphold and defend. No quibbling, no excuses, no whining, no legal mumbo jumbo. The finest governing document the world has ever seen.

And as a Master Sergeant (Ret), I am proud to say that oath is as valid today as it was when I swore it in 1981.

De oppresso liber.

Warren R.:

What purely epitomizes what it is to be a Veteran is the time, sacrifice, and honor to serve one’s country knowing the main purpose is a colossal undertaking more than one’s ambition. Warrior ethos is a must to really and fully serve beyond my own self-desire; it is to protect the individual to my left, right, front and back.

It has been a privilege and a honor to be able to build my core values from a military work ethic that enhances who I am today.

Robert B.:

I enlisted for Special Forces right out of High School in 1963 (you could in those days). I waived the orders to go to OCS and didn’t graduate. I deployed to Vietnam in a RECON Platoon with the 25th Dv. on New Years Day 1966. There were 27 of us; three of us came home for Christmas. I came home, went to college, became a cop, joined Reserve Special Forces. Returned to active duty in 1985.

The army said I was too old to deploy to Desert Storm and I was assigned to Casualty Assistance.

9/11 sent me to Germany for more logistical/deployment support and Casualty Assistance yet again. I finally made it to Afghanistan in 2002 attached to 5th Special Forces. Mostly, I ran road blocks and convoy escort, but got to patrol and blow up some enemy rockets on my 55th Birthday.

Forty years of service to my country, proud of every day of it.

Ol’Jer:

I grew-up in the post WWII/Korean War era, in a small, richly diverse Appalachian Ohio coal town. Along with Memorial Day, Veterans Day was a BIG deal — parades and many folks coming back home for the celebration and to see old friends. So, of course, when MY war in Vietnam came along it was a given that I wanted to be one of those combat veterans like my father and most of the rest of my family. That was the easiest thing to arrange in my life!

I had my career all lined-up, but in May of 1969, my second Purple Heart sent me out of the fight to eventual retirement. I was just weeks from R&R, promotion to E5 and my 20th birthday.

So, Veterans Day brings warm thoughts of now four generations of fine young men and women whom I have known and who have offered their all for the honor of serving our wonderful nation. And of course one cannot help recall those forever young who fell in battle and left us with a hole in our hearts and eternal sorrow in the depths of our souls.

To those who walked with me on the field of battle I offer my deepest respect and unending love and admiration.

Kimble S.:

I am a 30 year veteran of the USAF, officer/A-10 pilot, Tactical Air Control Party. I served 17 years overseas, including Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

My father was an enlisted pilot in WWII and separated after Korea as an officer. Many of my uncles and men from his generation were military; several were combat vets.

I have witnessed selfless leadership, dedication, and service on so many occasions worldwide. Several of my friends never came back from a sortie. I have also seen how many folks live in other nations who are not free.

I am thankful for our blessed freedom and for all the veterans who served in any and every capacity to give us that freedom. Your selfless service was never in vain. It is appreciated by most. Your legacy is sure. May God bless the USA.

Grumpy:

To all others out there with or without family by birth or The Bond we develop. Stay strong, contact someone you served with or are still serving with. Even for a Sitrep on there day.

Dean P.:

My dad, his brothers, my aunt, my uncle, my spouse’s father, her brothers, one of her brother’s wive, and I are Veterans. His son and daughter, and grandchild now serve.

From WWII until now, we served proudly. Folks stepping up, getting it done.

Robert U.:

My father and family. The USS Goldsborough was the last one he served on. He enlisted after bootcamp. He went to Korea towards the war’s end and served on a wooden mine sweeper. After that we moved to California where he went to school in San Diego and was deployed to a destroyer group as a Quartermaster on the bridge.

He served six deployments in Vietnam. He finished his last few years at Cecil naval air station. He spent 21 years at sea — pretty much most of his life. He served honorably and we were proud of him and still are. He passed away 10 years after he retired.

He lived free on his own terms in a time when men were real men. God bless my father, First Class Quarter Master Robert C. Ulmer Sr.

Ryan K.:

Being a veteran just isn’t about ourselves, it’s about being apart of something that is greater than me and that only few people will ever do.

I’m damn proud to have served this country and I am proud of the ones to follow!!

“Deuce Four”

McK S.:

I soldiered when most of my pals stayed the hell away from it.

I dropped out of college in early 1967 and by autumn I was in Vietnam. I taught new 1st Infantry guys the latest lessons learned from the field and I met an amazing cross section of America as these boys passed through our school.

I was a volunteer, but we were the raggedy-assed draft Army and we were good. I extended my time in Vietnam to attend USARV Advisor School and then went up north to Eye Corps where I worked as a Light Weapons Infantry Advisor to the small local formations that were the orphans of the ARVN, the Regional Forces/Popular Forces. I made Sergeant and came home in one piece and gratefully returned to college, this time Yale.

My first night in the dorm I walked into a room where my new neighbors were hanging out. I said hello and one guy said, “You were in Vietnam, right?” “Yup, I replied”. “How many kids did you kill?”

America has changed for the better, but I will never forget the bitterness I felt that night. I got a Bronze Star and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, but I didn’t get a thank you ’till many, many years later.

God Bless America and the U.S. Army.

Ronin Cav:

Been active Army for 14 1/2 yrs. Was active during the tragedy of 9/11. When I joined it was to get out of south-central LA. Away from the gangs. I thought I would do my four-year contract and move on.

When the twin towers and the Pentagon were hit with all those innocent people that lost their lives, something changed. So I decided to bring justice to the families that had lost love ones. During my tours I lost many brothers, but I have never regretted my time and I served proudly alongside some of the best people in this country that I regard as family.

Fight or Die.

Joe D.C.:

The price the few willingly pay to protect the many.

Scott M.:

While I am not a veteran, my father fought in Vietnam. He came from Troy, Ohio and was born into a very poor family. He dropped out of high school and knew he would be drafted, so he went down to the recruiters office to join the Army. The Army recruiter was out to lunch and as he was leaving the Marine Corps recruiter called him into his office and asked if he could help him.

My father said, “I came down here to join the army.” The Marine said, “join the army? Why would you do that? You’ll get killed in the army! Join the Marines and fight with the best!”

So he did. He left for San Diego a few days later. He went on to fight in Vietnam and leave the Marines after one tour.

He then got his GED and graduated from a small community college where he started a veterans club with some friends because they were not welcome by most other students or the VFW in town.

My father was extremely proud of his service and even more proud to have been in the Marine Corps! He died from ALS in 2013 which was found to be related to his service in Vietnam. He never complained and continued to work with veterans until he was too sick. He greeted troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan that landed in the small airport where we live before they went back to their bases, and he worked with a group that trained support dogs for vets with PTSD. Even after getting sick he would say  he was lucky because he got to come home and have a family and live a good life after the war and so many did not.

His name was Wayne T. McKenna.

Rick R.:

I served in the 1980s onboard a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Robison DDG-12, in which I deployed on three WestPac cruises. Each cruise eventually found us patrolling throughout the Persian Gulf and the North Arabian Sea during the Iran-Iraq War, i.e. Tanker War, escorting re-flagged oil tankers out of the Strait of Hormuz and engaging in Operation Earnest Will.

To this day, I still feel fortunate and honored to have served under President Ronald Reagan as my Commander-in-Chief.

Lastly, it has always been my understanding that Veterans Day is a celebration of those who served in harm’s way and returned home to tell the tale. Memorial Day, on the other hand is a more solemn occasion honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our Nation. It is appropriate to wish a veteran a Happy Veterans Day. It is even more appropriate to wish someone, such as surviving family, a Blessed Memorial Day rather than say Happy Memorial Day.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Anchors Aweigh!

Reinhard A.:

I am a proud member of the Austrian Reserve Forces (that is, after having served in active duty for a year, then being transferred to Reserve status) for well over 25 years now – still proud to serve my country.

And although Austria has not actively taken part in any of the armed conflicts since WWII, I still am proud of our Armed Forces. We have a good reputation where UN missions are concerned — our training for those missions is very good, actually — a fact that is acknowledged by many different countries who have served alongside us in any given UN-mission. We have a particular good standing in the Arab world – thanks to the deceased Chancellor Kreisky. I really hope that former soldiers get the true respect they deserve – especially in my country where the profession of soldier is not always welcomed by the general public – sad, but true!

I adhere to my pledge: “der Republik Österreich und dem österreichischen Volke zu dienen.”

Carlos M.:

We’ve moved away nationally from really recognizing what our military does, has done, or continues to do every day.

I’m lucky. My parents immigrated from countries with no freedom(s). They raised me to understand what the United States meant to them through their eyes. Its was a place of hope and possibility to create their own future. The people that allow us that blank canvas to create our own future here? You guessed it… the military.

Thank you for your service. Thank you for what you do, not only for me, but for my children, my family and my friends, and our country.

Brian Q.:

I am eternally grateful for the men and women in our armed forces currently and throughout our nation’s past. The epitome of selflessness and true heroism. My father served in the Korean War as so many fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters served throughout our country’s existence.

Thank the good Lord for all of you and what you’ve done and sacrificed. This goes to the families as well.

God Bless America.

Eric H.:

Veterans Day has always been special to me. As a former police officer who safeguarded the streets of a community, I have always had special respect for the men and women of our military who safeguard our country.

However, this year, Veterans Day has even more special meaning to me. This year is my first Veterans Day as the father of a veteran. My son just graduated from Navy Basic Training and is headed off to A-School to be a Navy Corpsman. I can’t believe how time has flown: I feel like just the other day I was walking him around the house at 3 am when he was a baby and couldn’t sleep. I’ll never forget our dozens of weekend camping trip adventures as he grew up. I can’t believe he’s probably a better shooter than I am (and have to beam with pride – inside – when he tells people that I taught him everything he knows). And, I’m proud of everything he had to do to get to where he is today.

Veterans Day will always fill me with profound respect for the people who stand guard over this beautiful country we call home. This year, though, it will also be about pride. I am so proud of my son: one of the United States Navy’s most newly minted Sailors and a damn fine young man.

Glen F.:

Being a veteran and grandfather means I view each and every member of our military as one of my own family; younger siblings, children, or, soon even, grandchildren. There is not one I would not run out and replace just to keep them from harm. It might sound ridiculous, but wars are fought by the young, because they are the most capable. And capable they are!

As a veteran, it is my great honor to encourage them on. To promote the ideals of strength, honor, and perseverance. Strength, because the U.S. military is the most powerful fighting machine on the planet, bar none. Honor, visible in their grounded character one of unshakeable love for family, country and faith. And perseverance, instilled in me by the USMC, “Even if you’re dying, keep on fighting.” There is no “quit” to be found in our American forces.

Veterans Day reminds me of this and all who’ve served. There is a great joy in knowing we are well protected, and that at one time I played a small role in this legacy.

Mike O.:

I have been retired for 25 years now, but Veterans Day always brings me back to my roots in the Army. I’m 76 now, but I still remember it all like it was yesterday. I can even still fit in my blues, wear my jump boots and beret, and go march or ride in a parade. I cherish the feeling of connection to the brotherhood, both living and passed on. Veterans’ Day is truly a day of connection and reflection.

Malcolm H.:

My family has served our country since WWII. My dad and uncles served in various locations around the world. My brothers served during Vietnam. I served in first Desert Storm, Somalia, and Haiti. Our family legacy continues today.

I’m proud to have served but, I look around me and see the service and sacrifice of thousands of others and their families.

It is a great honor to stand next to fellow veterans and their families. It’s a true honor many will never experience.

John W.:

My Veterans Day experience relates to the unit I commanded in the U.S. Army Reserve, the 365th MI Company (linguist). I took command in the summer of 1998, and changed out of command on September 15th, 2001, four days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I was in the Active Army for seven years, and in the USAR for 13 years, but my most meaningful time in the military was the 2 ½ years in command of the 365th. When I took over the Company, it was a mess (all company commanders say this, by the way). My unit was composed of soldiers of various MOS (military occupational specialty) who spoke a dozen different languages. At the time I took over the Company, they were more linguists than soldiers. It took a solid six months of drill weekends to get a regular schedule of morning formation, Army training, afternoon formation followed by language training, and ending the day with a final formation. In the mornings, the soldiers refreshed the skills of land navigation, weapons training, commo skills and other common task training. In the afternoons they were taught language training by civilian instructors. Myself, my AGR (Active Guard Reserve) First Sergeant and my XO spent our time getting rid of ghosts (soldiers on the books who never showed up) and trying to keep our Brigade happy while they hammered us for declining readiness ratings (which were based in part on soldiers that did not exist).

Four days before I changed command, the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. My company was cannibalized to support linguist/interrogator requirements for a variety of active duty organizations, since I had soldiers who spoke Arabic, Pashtu, Russian, French, and many other languages. They served in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. With two exceptions, everyone served honorably and well (one soldier was non-deployable for medical reasons, and the other one turned out to be a coward). My proudest accomplishment was preparing them for war; my biggest regret was that the Army did not let me deploy with them.

Today, most of us are still in touch. We lost our First Sergeant (later Sergeant Major) to a heart attack last year; but on Veterans Day we all connect with each other and say “remember when.”

Joseph V.:

After 28 honorable years of active, guard and reserve military service it means that I served with the best of the best any society has to offer. Side by side with strangers that forged a brotherhood of resiliency in every sense of the word. Leaving us to cultivate that same value while reintegrating into the civilian component of life.