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As you probably suspect, I am sure we fight far too many wars and depend far too much on weapons and the sacrifice of human life for our national “security.” But I am deeply and unequivocally grateful to those who have put–and are now putting–their lives on the line to protect us, including both of my fathers, my father-in-law, a sister-in-law and brother-in-law, uncles, cousins, a nephew and countless other relatives farther removed, as well as some of my dearest friends.

I am particularly grateful because I know that their sacrifice comes from a place of honor, duty and genuine concern for the people and country that they love and from a commitment to enduring and noble principles that they hold dear.

As I reflect on the idea of “ultimate” sacrifice, I tend to think that that phrase properly describes the price paid not only by those whose lives are lost but perhaps more so by those whose lives are irrevocably changed–who are forced to take life on our behalf, to witness first-hand the horrific brutality of war, to grow intimate with their brothers and sisters in arms and then see those brothers and sisters torn apart or taken away, to experience civilian casualty and “collateral damage” in a way far more real and disturbing than the abstraction of Pentagon briefings and media reports.

Even those who prepare for and face the prospect of such sacrifice are worthy of our respect–not to mention those who are actually thrust into battle.

Our soldiers offer up not only their lives but their innocence. And they bear the burden of our security and liberty not merely in blood, sweat, broken flesh and severed limbs, but in a mental and emotional currency I don’t even desire to imagine and know that I could not comprehend even if I dared.

To all of you veterans and active-duty military personnel: thank you. May God extravagantly bless you. And may this nation truly honor you for your service.