Every time I hear a veteran's story of service and sacrifice, I think of the question famed author James Michener posed in his war novel, The Bridges at Toko-Ri: "Where do we find such men?"
The answer, of course, is that we find these great patriots in every city, village and crossroads of America -- and especially in West Virginia, a state with one of the country's highest per capita rates of military service members and veterans.
And today, it's not just "such men" that we find to stand guard over America. Today, it's also "such women," who are a growing part of our military might, who voluntarily step forward, putting service above self to preserve America's freedom.
Of the 175,497 veterans in West Virginia today, 15,168 are women. Nationwide, 1.6 million of our nearly 22 million living veterans are women. And while the Department of Veterans Affairs projects our total veteran population will decline to under 15 million by 2040, the percentage of female veterans will nearly double to 18 percent.
Women, too, are answering the call to duty, despite the challenges, sacrifices and hardships that come in the defense of America -- a fact not to be forgotten this Veterans Day, as we show our love and pride and gratitude to all of America's veterans.
We look upon our veterans as heroes -- and we should. They are heroes. But they're not indestructible superheroes. They are warriors. But they also are sons and daughters, moms and dads, police officers and Little League coaches, accountants and electricians.
To a little kid -- heck, even to a U.S. Senator -- these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines look like they just stepped out of a superhero movie. But it's important to understand that the wounds some of them carry are very real, whether on the outside or the inside.
As a nation, we have promised these brave men and women to provide whatever they need to ease their journey back home, whether it is health care, counseling, rehab, education or job opportunities.