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VIEWPOINT: A heartfelt thank you on Veterans Day

In my world, Veterans Day ranks right up there with birthdays and Christmas. 

See, I love our veterans. It doesn’t matter if I know them or not. I love what they have done for us, and I love what they continue to do for us. Some of the most caring, dedicated people I know have served their country in the Armed Forces, and many of them continue to serve their communities. 

It’s like somewhere along the line, the desire to just “serve” became a part of their souls.

I’ve only been in Woodbury for just shy of a year, but already I’ve seen evidence of veterans who are still active. Veterans who are still out there protecting the public. Veterans who are using their knowledge and skills to serve those around them. 

I’m a member of the American Legion Auxiliary. I’m still a member of Unit 189 from Farmington, but when I came to Woodbury, one of the first groups I asked to meet with was The American Legion Post 501. I wanted to meet some of this community’s veterans, and it seemed only natural I meet some in The American Legion Family. That was the easy part. 

Over the past year, though, I’ve met lots of other area men and women who have served our country. They’re not too hard to find, when you open your eyes and your ears and your heart. 

The ones that don’t surprise me much are the veterans I’ve met who are part of the Woodbury Public Safety Department. Go figure. They go from being soldiers to being police officers, firefighters and paramedics. Still protecting, still serving. 

There are veterans in our schools, teaching our community’s children, making a difference in the generations to come. I’ve met a gentleman who provides hospice care for the sick and dying. He, too, is a veteran. 

When I go to Washington County Board of Commissioners meetings, I find more veterans. Two county commissioners are veterans, and several of the county staff are, as well. 

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure there is a whole crop of veterans out there that I have yet to meet. But I absolutely look forward to the time when I do get to meet them. 

I mean, when you think about it — and I mean, really think about it — we’re talking about hundreds of people who have signed on to serve their country. They have left their families and friends behind to enlist, to spend months in training. They are moved all around the globe, be it by land, air or sea. Some are assigned to peacekeeping missions; while others have been deployed to the heart of battle, be it Afghanistan or Vietnam. 

Yet, when they come home, so many of them still try to make life better for the masses. 

Now, I realize that not every veteran has taken on an active role in his or her community. Know what? That’s just fine. Their service to their country has earned them that right. I respect their service and dedication to country all the same.

In the world where I hang out with a lot of veterans almost every other week, there are a couple of really big days: Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. 

Memorial Day is the time to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for freedom, or those who served their country and have since passed away. 

Veterans Day, on the other hand, gives us all the opportunity to say a heartfelt “thank you” to the men and women among us who have served in the Armed Forces. Veterans Day is that chance we have to show our appreciation for those who have risked their lives to protect us all. 

Remember how I said Veterans Day ranks right up there with birthdays and Christmas? Well, here’s how I figure that — that’s because our veterans have given us the gift of freedom. And I, for one, am extremely thankful for that gift.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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