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This week, two important events for Americans will occur only a few days apart. First, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, we elected our next President, Donald Trump. Three days later, on Nov. 11, today, we honor thousands of veterans for serving our country and thereby helping to preserve our cherished freedoms.

Both of these important events are involved when you say to a veteran or to anyone in a military uniform, “Thanks for your service.”

But what does this phrase really mean?

It could mean several things.

For one, it says to our military men and women thanks for being so generous and selfless as to put your own personal plans and dreams on hold until after your duty to your country is done.

It also means thanks for agreeing to leave the comfort and safety of your childhood home to go to the far-off corners of the world to battle the bad guys.

Perhaps most of all, however, it means thanks for being willing to put your most valuable possession — your life — on the line for the safety and welfare of others. You knew military service was not a child’s bedtime story. No one guaranteed it would have the proverbial happy ending. Yet you signed up and went anyway. No greater love can a man have but that he lay down his life for his friends.

Recently I asked a service man to describe his feelings when someone greets him with “Thanks for your service.”

“Well, at first I’m a little embarrassed," he admitted, smiling. “I think the person is actually trying to say that he wants to thank all of America’s brave men and women who have ever fought in any war from the American Revolution to the Afghanistan conflict. The person is not thanking just the one soldier standing in front of him. On the contrary, he’s actually thanking all the thousands of men and women who, by their honorable military service, helped to secure the freedoms, rights, and privileges that Americans enjoy today.

“When you look at it that way, then it’s a compliment that’s easy to accept.”

So, don’t be shy. The next time you see a person proudly wearing a military uniform, just step right up, smile, extend your hand, and say sincerely, “Thanks for your service!”

You’ll be glad you did.

Harry Mosley of Carterville is a retired professor of English.

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