The woman at the ticket counter got on the microphone and welcomed any military to come board the plane first.  A young man in his twenties, dressed in fatigues, went forward with his camouflage backpack.  As I watched him make his way through the eager passengers in line, I noticed that people smiled at him–but no one really said any thing.

I’m not sure if anyone else experiences this inside, but part of me wanted to give this young man a hug.  I had no idea where he was headed, how long he had been enlisted, what experience he had already lived or had yet to live, but it just didn’t matter.  My heart felt such a deep gratitude for him making the commitment to defend our country–taking far greater risks than I have ever known.

I passed his row when I boarded the plane, and even I smiled at him but still didn’t say any thing.  I was caught up more in my insecurity of him thinking I was nuts for having a stranger thank him.  And yet, I wonder how many of us want to say so much more but don’t really know how to start.

This awkwardness is something I want to work on.  I’m not sure of all the ways I can go about it, but this divide I feel between my life and the military life…I would love to find a bridge so that there is never confusion on how grateful, how thankful I am for all the military gives.

We had some new friends over for dinner a few weeks back.  I had no idea that the husband had been deployed three times to the Middle East.  His stories were unreal.  And yet, we see him and his family ever Sunday.  I’d never known him well enough to thank him for risking all that he loves, three beautiful daughters and a wonderful wife, three times with every deployment.  I’d never thanked his wife.

Franklin Graham and Samaritan Purse is now offering special retreats for veterans through Operation Heal Our Patriots.  I saw a picture of one husband who is learning to live with his prosthetic leg–hiking with his wife.

Operation Heal Our Patriots, Samaitan Lodge, Port Alsworth, Alaska

His walk looks so casual, as if he can live life without ever missing the leg he once had.  But I know, through witnessing my father work through this new way of life–all the pain, the deep, unforgiving phantom leg pain for a leg that is no longer there–not to mention the huge change in my parents’ marriage, the care giving that has required endless hours from my mom…I know deeply that there is so much that has been sacrificed.  His leg is just the tip of the iceberg for him and his family.  How can I adequately say to this soldier, and all the others, how thankful I am?  That the sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed.

Growing up with a grandpa who fought in the Korean War, I know how important it is to listen to their stories when they feel like sharing.  The deep need to never forget the sacrifice, whether they be memories of victories or horrors, is how my grandpa keeps living.  As a girl, I always pictured Veterans as grandparents, like this powerful portrait Michael Corsentino captured.  (thank you again Michael for capturing these amazing images of Veterans.)

Veteran Portrait by Michael Corsentino

But our veterans are not limited to the older generations.  They are my age, and often even younger.  They are also not limited to the single family member, but to their surviving children, spouses and parents.  Aren’t their surviving loved ones veterans as well?  Do they know we are thankful for all that their families give–their incredible heart to serve us–even when their recognition seems so small compared to their great sacrifice?

One of the beauties of having owned this blog, despite all our partnerships and business changes over the years, is that I still get to share what is on my heart without having to censor.  Today, I want to take the space here to honor all the Veterans I know, along with those I will never meet.  To my grandpas, my friend at church, the woman in my yoga class…I want each of them to know how deeply grateful I am, even if I haven’t figured out how to say it in words when I pass you on a plane.

To say “thank you” doesn’t seem to be enough.  But to not say it, leave you to assume we don’t notice or care, is far worse a crime.

Thank you for all that you give, all that you stand for, and all that your families give as well.

I am humbled by your sacrifice.