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The changing face of the veteran: from the past to the future

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- America has evolved and so too will the veterans of the future embody a new reality that will differ greatly from those just a generation past.

The veterans of the future will come from a much more diverse background and be composed of a wider swath of government service than in the past; these changes are due not only to demographics, but also in terms of roles and responsibilities within the military structure.

We have evolved as a military fighting force and the citizen's Air Force within which we now operate is composed of civilians, contractors and Guardsmen in addition to active duty Airmen. On many levels it is impossible to distinguish the activities of one category from the next and it is certainly impossible to imagine reverting and operating separately, as we did in the past.

The distinguishing mark of a veteran used to be that the individual wore the military uniform. These days, I would argue that definition is much too narrow as the functions of those in uniform and our civilian partners overlap to the point of that we have become a single symbiotic organism.

Likewise, not only is the military a representative of American society, America has become a reflection of generations of veterans who have protected our Nation as it matured into a beacon of democracy.

Lessons learned in uniform and in the crucible of combat often defined countless veterans who have gone forward to achieve great things in all walks of life; from politics and business to sports and entertainment.

America would not be America without the sacrifices by millions upon millions of veterans who have stood as our nation's shield in times of war and in times of peace.

Some veteran's stories have been immortalized on film for deeds of heroism that seem superhuman and others quietly performed less grandiose actions that were indispensible nonetheless.

Some were heroes to millions, others have only been seen as a hero in the eyes of their children, but all have one thing in common: they served.

Here in Hawaii, and especially on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, veterans have a special connection with American history and the community at large is vividly aware of the perils of military service. However, though the veterans of World War II are frequently at the foremost of recollection locally during Veterans Day, it is important to remember the service of all veterans; those that served in uniform and those that served in civilian clothing.

Take the time to thank our vets while they are still here ... Listen to their stories, though some are told louder by their silence.

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