For over 200 years, Americans from all walks of life have answered their country’s call to arms during times of war. They have sacrificed their security, their future, and their lives to defend this country and our way of life. They march, sail, and fly into battle at the behest of our leaders with a single thought: protect American freedom and lives. They endure hardships and experience horrors most of us can never really comprehend, and they do it without thinking twice. America has been engaged in many wars over the course of our history, some of them righteous, others less so. But no matter the reason for conflict, when the military is ordered into action they go. It is this unwavering devotion to duty that makes our military among the finest in the world.

As we remember those who have fallen and those who are still fighting on this Veteran’s Day, we must try to separate the conflict from the men and women who go off to fight it. We must remember that these people did not create the wars they are sent to fight. They do not decide what weapons to use, what enemy to target, what building to destroy. They operate on orders from our civilian leaders, funneled through the military command. They just do what they are told to the best of their ability. They do it because they have to. They do it out of honor. They do it for us.

We must always remember that regardless of how we may feel about a particular conflict, we can never allow our feelings about war to denigrate those who would stand and fight for us. In the 1960’s and 70’s, American soldiers were demonized by average citizens because of widespread discontent with the war in Vietnam. No matter how wrong American policy may have been at that time, it was not the soldiers who deserved condemnation.

The war in Iraq has been drawing comparisons to the Vietnam conflict almost since it began two years ago. Some of those comparisons may be dead on, others a bit off the mark. But if average Americans learned anything in the years following Vietnam it was that our soldiers are not our enemy. There will always be atrocities in war and there will always be people in and out of uniform who betray the cause by acting in ways that bring shame to themselves and to our military. Prime examples of this include the horror of My Lai and the despicable actions at Abu Ghraib. But we must strive to remember that as a whole, our men and women in uniform work hard to live up to the high expectations we have of them. Americans no longer blame the military en masse for the acts of a few bad apples. We know that those who would fight for us deserve better than to be painted with such a wide brush.

On this Veteran’s Day, I hope that you will take a moment to honor those who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Honor those who have fallen in the wars of yesterday. If you have a veteran in your family, offer them thanks. If you see a veteran on the street, shake their hand, buy them a cup of coffee, throw a few dollars in their tin cup. Take time today to remember the service they have given in your name and the sacrifice they have made for all of us.

Fighting the battles of war is the job of the military. Fighting the politics of war is our duty. Tomorrow will bring another day of fighting and death abroad. Tomorrow will give another chance to confront the political machinations that have brought this war upon us. But for just one day, today, let’s forget about the politics of war and remember the warriors.