11/27/2013 03:04 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

A Thank You to Those Who Serve

As Americans, we have so much to be thankful for this holiday season. We are truly blessed to live in such an amazing place, founded on the principles of freedom, independence, and equality. It is these very principles that continue to make our nation strong, and I am so proud and grateful to have worn the uniform of this great country. Signing up to serve in the Marines was one of the best decisions I ever made. My career in the military and the work I've continued to do since receiving the Medal of Honor in 2011 have shaped the person I am today. While there have certainly been challenges and hardships, I am thankful for every lesson and opportunity being a veteran has given me.

Signing up to serve took me far from my small hometown in Kentucky, and since then I have crossed countries and continents. I once had a dream of attending college and playing football, but the instructors I had at the Marine Corps' sniper school could give the nation's best professors a run for their money. Our curriculum was just as thorough as any project management course -- ballistic physics, target and intelligence assessment, weapon systems, and mission planning -- but instead of a diploma, we got the special designation of 0317 - scout sniper. Being a Marine sniper has given me a confidence in my abilities in a way nothing else could have, and this is in large part due to the comprehensive education I received.

Serving in the military has also given me the opportunity to serve beside some of the best and bravest men and women this country has to offer. It is rare that you find people willing to sacrifice themselves for the team, people like Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry who received the Medal of Honor a few months before me. When an enemy grenade landed between him and two other soldiers, SFC Petry -- already wounded in both legs -- grabbed it and attempted to throw it away from them. He lost his hand, but those soldiers' kept their lives. I met SFC Petry after my own Medal of Honor ceremony, and I was struck by how amazing it was to have someone like him on our side. The men and women who serve in the United States military are amazing, and I'm just thankful for the chance to stand next to them.

I'm also grateful for the teams I get to work with today as a veteran. In 2012, I started working with Toyota and Hiring Our Heroes to help veterans and military spouses find jobs. A lot of people like to thank us for our service, but the service of a Marine is never done. Working to make sure that the men and women who have given so much for our freedom find meaningful employment and stability for their families is the least we can all do. I appreciate all of the support our program has gotten from local VA centers to the White House.

I encourage all Americans to take a moment tomorrow to reflect on the things and people that have shaped your life. As a veteran, my best traits have been forged by fire, and I would not change that for the world. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the men and women who are still serving every day to protect us, and I am forever indebted to those who gave all.