Just days ago, we Americans were at each other's throats, figuratively speaking. Passions were high and much of the rhetoric was shrill as we prepared for the presidential election last Tuesday.
Today we pause to recognize those among us who are and have been responsible for the only part of our government that has, beyond any argument, worked well for more than two centuries: the United States armed forces.
It is Veterans Day, set aside to honor the millions of men and women who have served us in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
Much is said during election campaigns about public service. Some candidates are even touted as having made sacrifices for their communities, states and nation.
Veterans Day is a reminder of real service and real sacrifice for our nation.
Sometimes our country's leaders and opinion molders talk about using diplomacy instead of armed force to safeguard our interests. While it is true that sometimes it can work, it is feasible only, as the late President Theodore Roosevelt noted, when we are able to wield a "big stick" even as we speak softly.
Rest assured that had our military not been the most fearsome force for good in all history, the power of evil would have overcome us many times in the past. It still exists today, ready to pounce if we show weakness.
No service to the public comes close, then, to what our men and women in uniform have done for us.
They have served at great cost to themselves, their families, their communities and their nation. Many of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost protecting us truly have been the best and brightest in America. What wonderful things might they have accomplished had they returned to civilian life?
How many widows has the bravery of those who served created? How many children have had to grow up without fathers or mothers? How many proud yet heartbroken parents have been forced to do what they had prayed could not happen - bury their children?
By the hundreds of thousands, many who served came home broken in body and/or mind, often struggling with everyday tasks the rest of us take for granted.
Even those who came home healthy have sacrificed much.
Think for just a moment about having to leave your home, family, friends, school or career for months, perhaps years on end. In many ways, the time lost by our veterans can never be replaced.
We owe them debts we can never truly understand, much less repay.
Today, as a nation, we pause to reflect on that.
And we say "thank you" - from our hearts.
May God bless the millions of men and women who have served and are serving us today.