I’m not a veteran. Like many life-long civilians, who haven’t had any close ties to the military, I don’t think about our servicemen and women very often. This is a shame, I know, but when I do really think about them, it’s hard for me to comprehend. It’s more than I really want to consider.

I think about the people who join the military today. They are typically kids — often still in high school. They come from all walks of life. Some are following the footsteps (or expectations) of past generations. Some are needing a way to get into college or learn a trade. Many may be unsure of themselves and in search of some purpose and direction. A few could be running away and looking for a fresh start. Whatever the reason, these kids are volunteering to put their lives at stake for their country. That’s quite a commitment. One that they may not even fully understand or appreciate when they sign on the dotted line. I’d like to think I could do it, but I’m honestly not sure.

Today I find myself thinking about being deployed. I try to imagine just driving down a road in the Middle East today. The searing heat, the scorching sun, the dust everywhere, covering me and the vehicle. Would I constantly be flinching, just waiting to hit an IED? Would I ever be able to relax, knowing I could be ambushed at any time?

My mind wanders to the horrors that one might experience on the battlefield. Blood everywhere, detached limbs, piercing screams, people who have become not only your allies, but your best and only friends, dying in your arms. There isn’t a single thing you can do to help, other than make them feel as comfortable as possible, and maybe say goodbye.

The shockingly sickening sights, sounds and…the smell. I know it’s impossible to accurately imagine. I’m quite certain I can picture the most gruesome thoughts in my mind, without even scratching the surface of the reality some of our American brothers and sisters face on a daily basis. Do they ever become immune? Do they just block it out and push on?

They come home to little or no fanfare. It seems our people in uniform have become boring to the media. Some don’t have anyone on American soil to offer emotional, physical, or financial support. Their old friends have moved on, their new friends may not have come home with them — if they came home at all.

Some veterans struggle to cope when they get out of the service. Others go on to do great things. Regardless, I have to guess that even those who are most successful — however that is defined — are never truly liberated from their experiences and memories. Once a soldier, always a soldier…

But who am I to say that. Do I even deserve to think it? I’m just a guy who relies on a holiday as a reminder to be thankful for all our servicemen and women — both past and current — do for me and my country.

This needs to change. Our attitude as a nation needs to change. Regardless of our personal beliefs, these men and women are true heroes. Without their sacrifices, our personal beliefs may not matter. They deserve so many things, most of which you and I may not be able to provide. However, if nothing else, we can all say hello and thank them for their service. We civilians have no idea what these people have been through or are currently going through. A simple kind word might go a long way. This shouldn’t just happen on Veterans Day, but it seems like a fitting day to start.