As the cold weather begins to set in, students have begun setting their sights on the Thanksgiving break that is rapidly approaching. Others look forward to the winter holiday season or simply an extended break from the tedious and mundane college class schedule.

No matter in which category you reside, this a time of gratitude and a season of giving.  It is an occasion of celebration, and an opportunity to show appreciation for those who have given everything for the well being of this great nation: the United States Armed Forces.

While Memorial Day is appropriately set aside to honor our fallen heroes, those who made the ultimate sacrifice, Veterans Day is intended to honor all of our military veterans – including the nearly 23 million living men and women – who have dedicated their lives to service.

Unfortunately, oftentimes, the mention of veterans brings about connotations of warriors. It promotes images of barbarians, instead of figures of service and sacrifice.

As Hurricane Sandy inflicted destruction across the East Coast, members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard gathered at March Air Reserve Base in California, preparing to trek more than 3,000 miles to assist their fellow Americans. The Navy sent amphibious ships to the shores of New York and New Jersey, delivering Marines, soldiers and members of the Coast Guard to help with the rescue of storm victims and the rebuilding of ravaged areas.

Being in the military is not only about sacrifice in the form of war, but it is a commitment to excellence.

It is a commitment to service.

We must always remember veterans who have given their lives for us long after the stopped wearing their military uniforms, after their service obligations expired and their love of country endured. But we must also remember those military heroes, both living and perished, who have provided years of service to citizens of the United States.

These young men and women have made incredible sacrifices – sacrifices that should not just be honored on Veterans Day, but that should be remembered and reflected upon every single day. It is because of heroes like my father, Master Sergeant Kevin Norman, my grandfathers, Senior Master Sergeant Michael Herbert and Gaines Norman, and my great grandfather, Chief Petty Officer Albert Credle, that we maintain our freedom.

It is because of men and women like them that we are able to live free and prosper in this great nation.

To our veterans, sometimes all that is needed is a simple “thank you.”