Throughout American history the nation has faced threats to our freedom and liberty.

One only has to gaze east at the situation in Ukraine to understand how little regard dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin have for notions of freedom and democracy and a sovereign nation’s right to exist.

We are blessed to live in a free and democratic nation where any citizen can speak his or her mind and strive to build a life of their own choosing. As a nation, we owe our way of life to the millions of men and women who have served in our armed forces – men and women who have pledged to lay down their lives to defend their country against those who would do it harm.

Since our inception as a nation, more than 41 million people have served in America’s armed forces, from the Continental Army to the War on Terror, according to a paper by Jonathan E. Vespa cited by the U.S. Census Bureau.

American veterans have throughout history comprised an extremely diverse set of people – from the Green Mountain Boys to the Buffalo Soldiers to the Tuskegee Airman to the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Our veterans include the Navaho Code Talkers, the Screaming Eagles, the Green Berets and Navy Seals. They have served at home and abroad on land, air and sea. Since 1973, they have served as an all-volunteer force.

From the Revolutionary War through the Global War on Terror, an estimated 1.2 million American service members have died in the line of duty.

On Veterans Day, we honor each and every veteran for their service to the nation. For without that service and sacrifice, the country as we know it would not exist. Instead of strong, free, democratic republic, America might be little more than a vassal state subordinate to an imperial Japan, a fascist Germany or some foreign tyrant such as Russia’s Putin.

Instead we stand as a beacon of liberty and the world’s arsenal of democracy. We owe our freedom to the men and women who chose – and still choose — to serve.

To all veterans on this Veterans Day, we say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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