I became particularly aware of the enormous sacrifice that veterans of our armed forces make when I served for four years in an organization that is half civilian and half military--the National Security Agency.
I know, boo, hiss. Perhaps all you've heard about the NSA is that they are spying on you. But they're really not. They really are devoted to uncovering foreign intelligence to keep the country safe. That's what I did for them for four years after 9/11. And we should be grateful for the service the NSA performs.
Anyway, while there, I worked side by side with military assigned to various duties. And I honor their service to America on this Veterans' Day.
But those of us who served our country in War Zones while not in uniform bear a different type of burden.
I was in Iraq from June to September of 2004. Not as long as a lot of people, obviously, but longer than anyone I knew at the time.
I was serving in an official government capacity. I was in danger. The base where I was stationed came under mortar attacks twice when I was there.
I was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal for my service, but I had to fight tooth and nail to get the medal I had earned.
As our nation has come to rely more and more on civilian federal employees and contractors for key services in war zones, I do feel that some recognition should eventually be due to them.
The day I left the city where I was stationed (the NSA has told me I can't state that city out loud), I was at a food service facility. I had spent three months eating various styles of lamb meat prepared by local Iraqis we had on base, but now, as I awaited my flight to Baghdad, I ate in style! It was a glorious banquet. But I also could not help but notice, the people serving me this food were not Iraqis. And they were not Americans. They were quite obviously Filipinos.
A month after I left, that facility was destroyed by a suicide bomber who killed a number of US military and also civilian contractors.
They were working in the same dangerous conditions as me. But there was no medal waiting for them. They were risking their lives simply because the salary they were making was well beyond what they could earn at home.
God bless all who have risked their lives for freedom, for love of country, and for the prosperity of their families.
And God bless our Veterans, who put their lives on the line for us and our nation.