I have vivid memories of riding in the car late at night to drop my brother off at a bus stop in San Francisco. It was the tail end of the Vietnam War, before the Pentagon Papers broke, and his number had been called. I can still feel the cold, scratchy roughness of the green duffel bag his possessions were stuffed into. I was young but not innocent. I harbored a tiny rebellion in my heart. I couldn’t understand a force so powerful that it could compel a young boy to go to war while his mother stood weeping in the night.

Many of his friends returned from the war broken, rejected, bitter. He returned home quieter and even more introspective than when he’d left. He didn’t see the front lines, but he saw plenty.

I still wonder at a world that can only seek to solve its problems through war, hot or cold. I wonder even more at the self-sacrifice of many, like Desmond Doss, who sign up to serve, not because they believe in war but because their efforts are needed to mitigate its staggering effects.

I’m thankful for soldiers who fight their way through to free prisoners from concentration camps. I’m thankful for soldiers standing by to extract wounded and protect families and children caught in the crosshairs of evil and greed. I’m heartbroken for soldiers forced to fight wars they don’t believe in or understand. I pray for the courage, safety, and wisdom of soldiers everywhere—that their efforts may, in spite of circumstances, clear pathways for good. The veterans I personally know are courageous and honorable. Principled and unselfish. Disciplined and focused. I appreciate the opportunity to honor them.