This weekend, the United States celebrates its annual observance of Veteran’s Day. It began in 1919, the first anniversary of the end of WWI. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. This day can be blurred with Memorial Day, in which the fallen are remembered. But today it is a time to pause and honor all those among us who have served in the Armed Forces.

Yes, contemporary political debates rage over the use of the military, defense spending, and other issues of hard power in this world. But an unintended consequence in the middle of those debates can be that we unintentionally overlook the actual military personnel in front of us.

One writer puts it this way, “As a society, we should not forget that those in the military are real people, with hopes and joys, a moral compass and a worldview. These are the men and women who are in ‘the service’ and sincerely desire to give of themselves for a greater good. These are the hearts behind the culture and creativity of ‘soft power,’ and they’re a force that should not be dismissed or underestimated.

“It is the serviceman or woman who most seeks peace because they protect and cherish the common good. When necessary, it is a good worth fighting for, but the service member knows that such a good is always stained by any such conflict.”

The military men and women who serve and protect the U.S. come from all walks of life; they are parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors and coworkers, and are an important part of our community. Here are some facts about the veteran population of the United States:

•   16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war.

•   5.2 million veterans served in peacetime.

•   2 million veterans are women.

•   7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.

•   5.5 million veterans served during the Persian Gulf War.

•   Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 558,000 are still alive.

•   2 million veterans served during the Korean War.

So, this morning you may have sat on something that surprised you — unless, of course, you checked things out before just sitting down. Every seat in our Worship Center this morning has a small plastic toy soldier. Of the inexpensive variety. But they were each placed on your seat intentionally. They are our gift to you. A gift with a purpose.

Please take home this toy soldier and put it somewhere prominent in your life this week. When you see it, pray for our men and women serving our nation. Pray for our leaders who make important decision which impact these faithful individuals. And pray for those who have served.

This holiday should not be forgotten. Take your solider home. You can even take a couple of them, we have plenty. Place it somewhere that will remind you to pray for those who serve our country.