12/30/2011 04:39 pm ET Updated Feb 29, 2012

'Thank You for Your Service'

As our men and women in uniform return from Iraq, many people share a deep sense of gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice they have made by risking their lives as a member of the armed forces. Just a few weeks ago, while returning from a workshop in Texas, I traveled through Houston's Intercontinental Airport and saw the all-too-familiar sight of soldiers in camouflage uniforms carrying the world on their backs. Aboard the shuttle train that runs between terminals, I heard the phrase "Thank you for your service" repeated over and over as total strangers expressed their gratitude to these men and women in transit.

It occurred to me that somehow we may have forgotten -- or at the very least taken for granted -- so many others among us who deserve our thanks nearly as much as those who've gone off to war. As true as this may be, how many of us have stopped to offer our thanks to others not in uniform but working below the radar and behind the scenes, dedicating their lives "in service" to a profession or cause. Without such committed individuals in our hometown ranks, life wouldn't be so blessed nor would we be so incredibly fortunate.

So without diminishing an ounce of appreciation for our proud service men and women, what if we turned around to each other and uttered the same phrase, "Thank you for your service":

Nurses, orderlies, X-ray technicians, hospital personnel, EMTs, nurse's aides, admissions officers, social workers, chaplains and all those who work under the broad banner of health care, in the shadow of the physicians and caregivers we might have come to see: Thank you for your service. For the ways in which you care for us when we are injured, sick or in need of medicine, the love and compassion you show through your profession, for wiping away our drool while we lay helpless, for teaching us to walk again when we are injured, for all you do in the process of healing our minds and bodies, thank you, thank you.

Teachers, professors, teaching assistants, librarians, scholars, nursery school and pre-school workers, day-care providers and all enlisted in the field of education: Thank you for teaching us, for guiding our children, young and old, for inspiring our high school and college students, the adult learners and those in graduate school. Thank you for your service, for all that work behind the scenes, for grading papers, preparing for classes, challenging us, sharpening our intellect and enriching our lives with knowledge, thank you, thank you.

Artists, musicians, actors, writers, poets, filmmakers, painters, sculptors, dancers, singers, comics, photographers, designers, visual artists, performers and all those in the arts and literature, and those in the entertainment industries who work behind the scenes, in the shadow of superstars and pop idols, icons and masters of the trade: Thank you for your service, for bringing light into our lives, the creative spirit, laughter and tears, awe and imagination, beauty and drama, tragedy and sobering truths. You help us to move outside of our own lives into the theater of life itself, thank you, thank you.

Bus drivers, pilots, taxi drivers, train conductors, subway engineers, transportation specialists, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, ferry boat captains, and all those who help us behind the scenes to get from point A to point B, day after day: Thank your for your service, your dedication to move us through space safely, in boats and cars and planes and trains, in vehicles of all kinds and types. Your concern for and attention to your job allows our commute each day we often take for granted, and makes that family vacation possible, through your work that often goes unappreciated. Thank you, thank you.

Policemen and firemen (and this includes the women in those professions), security guards, safety monitors, sentries, detectives, officers, desk clerks and stockroom workers who work behind the scenes in our public utilities and municipal services: Thank you for your service. Thank you for all you do to keep us safe and sound, to guard our families and our children, to answer our need for protection and safety from danger, and who often work under the most difficult of circumstances that results in you putting your life in danger. Thank you, thank you -- yes, thank you.

And to our mothers and fathers, our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters and next-door neighbors, the guardians of our children and of the family: Thank your for your service, for the many nights you cared for us, for rocking us to sleep and calming our fears, for the ultimate sacrifice of giving your time and your lives to foster and inspire the next generation, our future, ourselves. Thank you, thank you.

Are there more people you'd like to thank for their service as this year draws to a close?