Veterans Day—a day on which we thank those men and women who donned our nation’s uniform. Reasons for serving are as diverse as those who have worn the uniform. But for whatever the reasons or circumstances, the values, ideals, and freedom on which the United States is built are made possible by the sacrifice of those who served in the military.

As a veteran, I have had people ask me, “What does Veterans Day mean to you, and how do you want your service to be recognized?” I remember the men and women I served alongside. Whether I was “pulling alert” in an underground launch facility in the middle of rural North Dakota, working the press center in Iraq, or working near someone whose desk was across from mine at the office, there were friendships—or, more appropriately, bonds—made. And although I may not have talked to some of those people in years, my memories of shared experiences while in uniform persist.

That’s what Veterans Day means to me.

How do I want my service and status as a veteran recognized? Sure, I gratefully accept the free meals and store discounts, but what really means the most to me? Simple: seeing a free America and seeing Americans living their lives, mindful that freedom indeed comes with a cost.

So the next time you see a veteran, do say thank you. It goes a long way. But carry that gratitude even further by living your life with a thankful heart—thankful that you live in a country that is the land of the free and home of the brave, and thankful that those things are possible because of those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who have served and currently serve.

Happy Veterans Day.