11/09/2012 10:42 am ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Veterans Day Honors Our Superheroes

The image of the veteran has varied as much as the wars they have fought. What do we think of veterans today?

My son's response: a hero.

I asked him if he thought anyone would disagree with this description. He looked perplexed and asked:

The guys fighting on the other side?

There are an estimated 22.7 million veterans living today. They are men and women. Some fought on battlefields. Others have not. They are old and young. A veteran may be hard to pick out or easy to see. They can have physical scars from war and others that aren't visible. They may be proud of their service or they may never mention they ever wore a uniform.

This week, I talked about veterans with a first grade class. I asked the question, "Who is a veteran?"

A little girl piped up, "they take care of my pets." I smiled.

The kids were supposed to be painting red, white and blue lines on paper hearts to be used as decorations for the school's Veterans Day reception. I asked the class to tell me the words they felt described the veterans they knew:

Nice. Brave. Strong. Dad. Helpful. Grandpa. Old. Uniform.

One boy added: Superheroes.

The class finished up their projects and left to go back to their room. Just half of the 18 hearts spread in front of me had what could officially be classified as straight lines of red, white and blue. Some had dots, one was completely blue, another lacked lines altogether. Then I stepped back to look at the whole group of hearts that would decorate the walls for the veterans.

They definitely weren't perfect or the same, but together they made a bold image. I knew the display would be appreciated. And it sure looked patriotic.

Who is a veteran?

Fathers. Mothers. Daughters. Some volunteered to serve, others went overseas because they were drafted. There are veterans who put on a uniform once a month and others who put one on every day. They may pilot a plane or take care of a K-9. A veteran could be trying to forget a day many years ago. Or looking forward to serving 10 more years in the Marines.

There is no one way to describe every veteran. They are as diverse as our nation. Together they gave us a place to live where boys and girls can go to school, learn, and create. A place that can sometimes act divided but unites when the times are tough. A nation that has free elections, the openness to allow divergent views, and is filled with relative peace. A country where men and women now volunteer to be in the military.

America's veterans stood up on behalf of our nation; joining together with others to think beyond themselves to the greater good. Super Heroes. Yes, I definitely agree with the first grader's description of a veteran. The call came and they answered.

On Veterans Day, most of us will have a regular old day. And, for that, you can thank a veteran.