Being a veteran carries a badge mixed with pride and shame.
Especially combat veterans, who we have tried to touch base with periodically. It's a wrenching assignment for both interviewer and interviewees.
They're a tough bunch reluctant to discuss their war experiences. Their duty was horrendous, many admit through tears.
They committed unspeakable acts that left them or their fellow soldiers dead, wounded or suffering from mental illness.
Today some admit to cowering in a dark room during the deer hunting season, when many Minnesotans are shooting rifles from trees. Some vets simply can't bear to revisit that terror they felt during war when they patrolled dangerous areas filled with snipers.
Some confess their resentment at being on the front lines when their fellow troops were way behind them in more civilized duty stations performing the routine work of war.
They have mixed feelings of all the memorials and celebrations we've heaped upon them at home, unsure why they're being recognized for killing other citizens because their governments couldn't resolve their differences any other way.
Some resent the flag waving crowds, the hero worship, civilians who celebrate the "glory of war."
It was a dirty, lonely, terrifying and confusing job they were sent to do.
They have survivors' guilt that they left their brothers, sisters and strangers behind on a battlefield.
They reached deep within their frightened selves and did what was expected of them in the name of duty.
Most will say there was nothing honorable about war.
They need the continued camaraderie of their fellow service men and women because even the most understanding families can't relate to what they've been through.
Thanking them seems trite and superficial.
But we can help them in other ways.
Many need mental health services and Hubbard County Veterans Service Officer Greg Remus is lobbying the VA hard to get a care center established locally. He has support from the Park Rapids American Legion.
We need to widen eligibility for veterans benefits of all types. We owe them.
On a global level we need to re-evaluate our positions on terrorism, confrontation and rearmament, especially in a nuclear age.
Lastly we need to buck human nature. We need to shed our superiority, our ingrained sense that we're better than others, lose that inherent bias that causes our leaders to make decisions to go to war as the only option.
Disagreement need not be automatically confrontational. Compromise doesn't make us weak.
Getting out of ill-conceived wars doesn't abandon the fallen or the mission. It doesn't make us "un-American."
For those who served proudly and did what was expected of them, we commend you.
For those who served against your will, we embrace you.
But for all who served, we thank you.