I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

These 76 words contained in the Oath of Enlistment for entry into the United States Armed Forces bind our service members not to a king or state, but to the U.S. Constitution, a document encompassing the vision of liberty and the rule of free men under law.

Some might see this as a radical concept, but it is one that has kept America free and strong and a beacon of hope for people around the world for 236 years.

It is also this promise that sets in motion the journey to serve our country with honor and, once fulfilled, results in the privileged title — veteran. Their bravery, their resourcefulness and their patriotism marks them as America’s finest citizens; Americans who stepped out of the crowd and voluntarily took the oath. They served under those words — some bled and other died for them. The decision to serve changed their lives forever.

This Veterans Day we remember that a veteran is a fellow citizen, an ordinary person who at one significant point in his or her life made out a blank check payable to the United States of America for any amount up to and including their lives.

Our veterans do not serve for glory, or power, or wealth, but for freedom, and the simple recognition of service well performed — a sincere thank you — means more to most veterans than any other reward.

So, to my fellow veterans I say thank you for your service and a job well done. And to my fellow citizens I thank those of you who have supported our veterans and their families. Happy Veterans Day!

Jim Willis is the director of Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

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