Every year during Veterans Day, I often wonder if people truly understand the meaning of the day. Our society has commercialized it with sales promotions in order to lure people into their stores. Some organizations and individuals politicize the day in order to be seen and promote an agenda they know nothing about. At times, it appears that society has lost the meaning of Veterans Day and have taken for granted the military service members who keep our culture open, our democracy strong, and our country free.

Veterans Day is more than a day to go shopping or a day to get out of class for a program or have a holiday from work. It is a day we formally pause to recognize the tireless efforts of those who put their lives on the line and their family and friends on hold for people they do not know and for a nation they call home.

Since we are a nation at war, more people are appreciating the men and women who are fighting every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, fulfilling their duty to defend and protect the United States of America. A greater number are answering the call of duty and joining the Armed Forces because they want to be part of something that is greater than themselves.

The active duty, National Guard, and reserve components are in places other than “war zones.” We are engaged in conflicts in every part of the world and remain in training in order to stay disciplined, physically and mentally tough, and proficient in our tasks and drills.

As a combat veteran, I know firsthand the meaning of sacrifice and being outside a comfort zone. Worrying every day, counting down the days until I can return home, and hoping that the next day will be better than the day before. Wondering if I made the right decision to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Hoping that as a leader I do not let down my soldiers and their families, let alone my own family and friends.

Entering my 10th year in the Army National Guard — where I’m now a company commander who commands soldiers and is responsible for overseeing $20 million worth of equipment and assets and training soldiers for two missions — I know my value, and veterans know theirs. But do you know yours?

It is my hope that more people will do more to sacrifice and serve a cause greater then themselves. If a veteran can do the very same thing for people they will never meet and for a needed purpose in every season, every situation, and every endeavor, surely a non-service member can do the same at home.

Last week we celebrated Veterans Day. In the days and months between, remember that you live in a country whose freedom and way of life were protected and remain protected by those who wore and wear the uniform of freedom, pride, hope, endurance, and sacrifice every day and not just once a year.

Do not take the institution of the United States military and service members for granted. You can never thank a veteran and their family enough for sacrificing for our freedom, our way of life, and our values.

While you don’t have to be in the military to serve and sacrifice, you do have to serve and sacrifice if you expect to obtain a greater achievement in life that money cannot buy, elected office cannot hold, and no one can take away.

God bless you and God bless the United States of America.