Every year, Nov. 11 is a day to observe with ceremonies that thank all of those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. But this Friday will be a special Veterans Day because of the promise that American troops in Iraq will be home by the end of the year.

In today’s edition of the East Valley Tribune you will find in PARADE Magazine a terrific essay written by Gen. Colin L. Powell entitled “Why We Serve.” We recommend you take a few minutes to read it.

General Powell is recognized as an American hero. He has long been retired but writes today that no one never really leaves our armed services.

“…the people I knew in my early days — from college ROTC and my first assignment — I still know. I think of them as family. In every assignment since, I’ve found a new family, but each time it’s also felt like an old family. And even though I’ve been retired from the military for 18 years, I’ve never left that family.”

The general writes touchingly of his closest friend from college and their service together in the military. And he tells of his friend’s heroic death in service to our country.

“Many people refer to the World War II generation as the greatest one, but we’ve had greatness in every single generation of Americans who have served. I know of none greater than the generation of GIs now fighting for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan and serving around the world. Someday soon, they’ll need us to fight for them,” writes Gen. Powell.

So he urges that Americans make a commitment to volunteer assistance by contacting a local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, or the Disabled American Veterans. Rather than taking time once a year to thank veterans, we need to recommit to giving back in a way that helps these people who in many cases have given so much for each of us.

His essay points to a video on the Web of interviews with six people that have served in our Armed Forces. Don’t watch it if you are not prepared to be emotionally touched. Don’t watch it if you are not a patriot. If you do watch it, you will be touched. You will feel a patriot.

The president recently announced that all American troops now in Iraq will be home by the holidays. Nine years after it started, the war in Iraq will be over.

We should all pray for the safety of the men and women in service to our country every day. But extra prayers right now would be a good idea. We want our patriot soldiers to come home safe. No family should lose one of our own in these final days.

And please show appreciation to veterans this Friday by displaying an American flag, attending Veterans Day observances and thanking any veteran from any era that is met. Tell them you are proud of them and what they have done for their country.

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