11.11.11.

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Veterans Day never meant much to me growing up. My grandpa was in the Army as a young man, but his being drafted to fight in World War II was my only experience with the military.

In elementary school, my friend Jennifer and I only had a few Ken dolls compared to tons and tons of Barbies. We invented elaborate story lines for them, and in the interest of sharing, whoever was “playing” the Ken doll would send him off to war. He would become a different character and someone else could play him. To us, the idea of “going off to war” was far-fetched, something we’d read about in American Girl books and learned about in school.

And now Veterans Day means a lot more. It means thanking my boyfriend for his service, which will result in three deployments by the time he’s out. It means being thankful that he’s stayed safe the entire time. It also means thanking all the other servicemembers in my life: friends who have deployed and friends who haven’t (yet). And it also means recognizing servicemembers’ loved ones for their sacrifices. It isn’t easy watching someone you love head off to war, especially when “heading off to war” used to be something you could barely imagine.

The older I get and the further along I get in life, the more people I meet who have experience in – or some kind of ties to – the military. A lot of people are veterans; they may no longer actively served, but their service shouldn’t be forgotten. And a lot of people are still waiting to see combat, to live in a warzone, but their willingness to serve should be respected as well.

I don’t like war. I don’t like the idea that as advanced as we humans are, we still believe fighting and killing is the way to solve a problem. While I don’t fancy myself a pacifist and I don’t speak out against the war, it isn’t something I like. The current wars in particular are something I struggle with.

But I will never struggle with the idea of supporting our troops. Some of them join because they’re passionate about our country and others join because they feel they have no other options, but all of them make more sacrifices than the rest of us can – or have to – understand.

And for that, they deserve all of our thanks.

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