by Ralph Nichols
While standing in the check-out line at the Burien Walgreen’s Wednesday evening, I turned to glance at a display – but my attention was diverted to the man in U.S. Army fatigues behind me.
After quickly noting the Airborne and then the Ranger insignias on his chest, I asked the obvious question: “So you’re a Ranger?” “I used to be,” he answered modestly.
“You guys are absolutely amazing,” I said. “When I read stories about Rangers, I feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing since the third grade!” “Thank you,” he replied quietly.
“No, thank you;” to which he said, “It was an honor.”
This was no isolated incident. I am only one of millions of Americans who, when we’ve thanked the men and women of our armed forces, veterans of wars past and those currently serving, has heard them say something like “we were just doing our job.”
On a 2005 Alaska Airlines flight to Boise, 80 of the passengers were with the Idaho Army National Guard, returning home after serving a year with the 116th Combat Brigade in Iraq.
Like the Ranger I met this week, these men and women were amazing. They walked off the plane not with a swagger, but with quiet confidence – in themselves, in their band of brothers and sisters, in a job well done as they fought for us against terrorism – yet downplayed what they had done when thanked by the rest of us.
Former Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat, observed a few years ago:

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest…. Our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home.”

That’s why, today, November 11, we honor again our fighting men and women, those now or recently in uniform, and retired military veterans from World War II, from Korea and Vietnam and the Cold War, from smaller conflicts and the Gulf War.
They embody the spirit of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address when he challenged the nation with these words: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
All members of the modern Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, who continue to answer this clarion call, volunteered to serve – a choice they made for America and for us. They truly are the salt of the earth in America.
And never forget the reality that, on the home front, their families really do serve too.
When you meet a veteran from any era or still on active duty, thank them for their service sacrifice – not just on Veterans Day but throughout the year.]]>

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