Excuse the wistful gaze toward the past from us today. But if there’s a day that needs it, it’s today — Veterans Day.

Oh, what we wouldn’t give to be a single-digit age again, sitting on the lap of our grandfather as he flipped through a yellowed photo album stocked with postcards from the places he visited and things he saw when he trudged through the European theater of World War II.

Oh, we’d love to hear those stories again: how his G.I. buddies called him “Rubber Legs” because he knew how to dance, how those British troops he hung with called him “Yank” and how the people of the towns he walked through showered him with flowers, hugs and beer.

Oh, we’d love to ask him if we could wear his uniform again, that dusty green jacket with patches we didn’t understand and medals we had no clue about fitting us like a shower curtain. Trust us, we’d give everything and anything to know then what we learned in the years following.

Some of us can still talk to a veteran. We can listen to their stories, we can offer that caring ear and we can show our appreciation. It’s simple, really. How about a smile when we see one of those “Korean War” or “Vietnam Veteran” hats sitting high on their heads? How about a shake of the hand?

How about two simple words strung together with meaning behind them: “Thank you.”

Today is their day. It doesn’t matter if they stormed the beaches of Normandy, walked along the dusty streets of Fallujah or sat in front of a computer screen in a makeshift office that looked more like a tent than a high-rise. All that matters is that they know how much we appreciate what they did.

So happy Veterans Day to those who served, to those who still walk among us and those whose memories are all we have left.

We’d give anything — everything — to look our grandfather in the eye, wrap him in a hug and say those two words: “Thank you.”

Today, you should as well. Before it’s too late.

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In Flanders Fields

John McCrae - 1872-1918

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

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