Veterans Day is set aside to honor all those who have served in the military. It is a day when we who are serving in Afghanistan are indescribably grateful for the love and support we receive from home, and we pause to honor those who have gone before us.

I often wonder why some of America’s best youth choose military service — in a time of active conflict, no less. I believe that in some small way, each individual does it to represent, preserve and honor what we value in America. For me, these values always draw me back to Wayne.

Service is not a concept unique to the military. I see it in the educators, scouting leaders and volunteer sports coaches devoted to the next generation. I see it in the volunteers who work to keep our lakes beautiful. I see it in church members who distribute holiday food packages to struggling families, and volunteer firefighters who rush to danger.

I even see it in our buildings. The Wayne Town House on Route 133 reminds me of the pure, early form of democracy created in New England centuries ago, and the Cary Memorial Library reminds me of childhood sessions listening to volunteer librarians reading summertime stories.

Service of many types, to something larger than oneself, is what keeps our communities and our nation strong. After 22 years in uniform, I still struggle to find better examples of service than those I grew up watching in central Maine, include vets from more senior generations.

The United States is an amazing nation, even with our warts and scars. We have much to be grateful for. If you get a chance this week, thank a vet. And as importantly, thank the families of veterans who serve — and sacrifice — in their own, uncelebrated way.

Col. Christopher Ireland, USAF

Writing from Afghanistan

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