“Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays,” President Obama announced on Oct. 20 and, yes, this is a wonderful thing.

But I can’t help but think, “Will these brave men and women find a welcoming nation, one which is prepared to embrace them as the heroes they are? One that is prepared to assist them in reintegrating into the society they once knew? One which is prepared to provide the plethora of services and assistance many of them will need?”

Or will they find an ungrateful, uncaring, and ill prepared nation?

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2011, is upon us, and these questions need to be answered. Veterans Day, which was declared a legal holiday and first celebrated in 1918, was established as a day to be observed with parades and public meetings. Today, our veterans need far more than a parade.

For the first time in nearly 10 years, America can look forward to a partial end of the War on Terrorism, a war which most Americans believed we should not have been involved in, a war which few Americans truly supported or understand what we were supposedly fighting for and against.

To my chagrin, America, just shy of its 250th birthday, has engaged in 11 wars: American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican-American War (1846-1848), American Civil War (1861-1865); World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1937-1945), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam War (1955-1975), the first Gulf War (1991) and the War on Terrorism (2001-present)

America has lost some of its most precious and valuable resources, the lives of young men and women enriched with promise and aspirations. To date, World War II has the highest official death toll at more than 400,000.

The Vietnam War, the war most Americans are aware of, claimed almost 60,000 lives. The death toll for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a little more than 6,000.

With the troops leaving Iraq and there is no projected end to the Afghanistan war; we stand to lose even more of our best and brightest. Still, there is reason to celebrate Veterans Day. Our troops, who are on their way home, deserve to find rejoicing families and a grateful nation.

I can’t speak on behalf of a grateful nation, but I can speak for myself.

On behalf of a grateful daughter whose father served in World War II and returned to deposit great wisdom and life skills into my life; on behalf of a grateful niece whose two uncles also served in World War II and who returned and taught me entrepreneurship and financial planning which shaped me into the woman I am today; on behalf of a grateful sister whose two brothers served in Vietnam and returned and helped me with my school work and made family occasions and holidays so very special; on behalf of a grateful friend who enjoys the friendship of some of America’s finest soldiers; on behalf of a grateful mother whose children are sleeping safely each night wrapped in the democracy we love so much; on behalf of a grateful educator who gets to help veterans returning to school accomplish their educational goals, I say to the returning troops and veterans everywhere, thank you for your courageous service and tremendous sacrifice.

On behalf of a truly grateful American, I say to the mothers and families whose soldiers will not be returning home because of the ultimate sacrifice of spilling their blood and losing their lives in one of America’s many wars, I say thank you for what you have endured and for the ultimate gift you gave America – your sons or daughters who died so that we might live in freedom.

I salute and personally thank veterans everywhere, for their stories are the fabric which strengthen our lives and ensure our freedoms and pursuit of happiness. I am truly grateful for your service.