A police officer on security detail spotted an elderly man walking into the grocery store wearing a ball cap with a military insignia. “Excuse me sir, were you in the Army?” the officer asked.

“Why yes,” the slender, frail man replied.

“Well, thank you very much for your service to our country,” the officer said while exchanging a firm handshake with the gentleman who looked to be in his 80s. The officer asked where the man served and intently listened to details for several minutes. The veteran walked away with a smile on his face.

Though we observed this spontaneous scene recently in Solon, it’s becoming a familiar exchange across the U.S. as more and more people take time to thank friends, relatives and complete strangers for devoting years of their lives to military service.

The U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force all are in place to protect our country and its citizens both here and abroad. All of these arms of the U.S. military are made up of individuals who bravely serve. They deserve a day of thanks and recognition.

Veterans Day, celebrated on Nov. 11 each year, does not have an apostrophe in the name. That’s because this patriotic holiday does not belong to any one person, but rather it is a day for all veterans.

Unlike Memorial Day, set aside to remember men and women who gave their lives for our country, Veterans Day honors everyone in any military branch whether they are living today or have passed away. So we can’t help but say “thank you” to a veteran who may live next door or be in front of us in the grocery line. Their service is key to why we have our democracy.

Initially this holiday was called Armistice Day, marking the end of fighting during World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 signaled the official end of the “war to end all wars.”

Congress changed the name of the observation in 1954 to Veterans Day to honor all who served in not only World War I, but also World War II and the Korean conflict. Women and men over the years have continued their military service in times of peace and times of other conflicts, such as Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Building tributes to veterans is important to those living in the Chagrin Valley. Russell Township is just one of many communities working to honor veterans. A memorial with stones representing the five branches of the military at Riverview Memorial Park Cemetery was started two months ago and is just about completed.

In South Russell, a committee is in the midst of planning a veterans memorial in the village with hopes of having it in place by June of 2020 once a location is finalized. Moreland Hills Village dedicated a veterans park in 2014 at the corner of Miles and SOM Center roads. The Geauga Park District dedicated Veterans Legacy Park last year in Newbury. Solon completed its Veterans Memorial Park nine years ago. Those are just examples of the many memorials and parks dedicated to veterans across the Chagrin Valley.

We take pride in the 800,000 veterans now living in Ohio, making this state home to the sixth largest veteran population in the U.S.

So, let’s take time to honor our veterans. We thank each and every one of them for their commitment and service to our country.

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