Pick your adjective:  cold, damp, raw, stinging….it is typical northern Midwest, if it were a month later. And yet there is no place I would rather be.  I have the presence of security and the company of loved ones.  To paraphrase Churchill….so many are here in a proud and free land on account of so few.  What sacrifice is an upturned collar when there are those far away from the place called home?

I always try to write something on Veteran’s Day; a small thank you to those who spared me and those like me from the absence of liberty and allowing us the presence of tranquility when they could not have that themselves.

I remember in moments of despair, the bartering that makes one say, “please let it be me and not her or him.  You don’t usually get to do that sacrifice.  But I also recall the Gospel……”no greater love is there than this…..”Both of these are difficult, but of the later there is the opportunity to make a choice.  On that matter the veteran is one who chooses sacrifice above his or her own security and with it the possibility of “laying down one’s life.”

There is little that is reciprocal in our relation to vets.  They give and we receive.  They may have our small tokens of thanks, but the greater gift is theirs.  And though many serve in times of peace, the threat of hostility is never far away.  Being in harm’s way is an ever present possibility and for millions it has also been a reality.

So I am here in cold dank Chicago and my collar is upturned and my fingers frozen.  But it is a city in a free land and there is no place I would rather be.  I can only be in the best place there is to be because others chose to be faraway in frightening and unfree places.  That deserves a thank you as modest as it is.   For those like my father and a few friends, I can only offer this feeble gratitude.  And I would leave it here, but one more thank you is due.

For the wives, husbands, daughters and sons…..thank you.  My life is more than fair because yours was or is not.    I am wrapped in reprieve because for you someone could not be there.  You have shared your most precious gift with more than 300 million in this land and with millions more in places faraway.   That I’ve been in your community is my greatest pride.

Finally let us pray today for that world which will one day see the absence of the necessity of these, the most noble of people.  Until that day comes may our prayers be in thanksgiving for these.

Image:  I’ll Miss You Dad by Cicillo Ricardo