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Earlier this month our community celebrated Veterans Day. We honored our active and past military servicemen and servicewomen. We are now about to enjoy Thanksgiving Day. Americans will assemble and express gratitude for the daily blessings and privileges of life here in the United States of America. Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, I contend, are integrally linked.

They’re connected because South Dakota is a proud state with thankful citizens fiercely patriotic and fervently supportive of the state guard and the national military. We’re respectful of the honor and devotion to duty exhibited daily by our veterans past and present. We’re aware they’ve devoted their lives in service to country, and we’re thankful they’ve bravely answered our nation’s call.

In early spring of this year, House Bill 1179 was introduced to the state Legislature. The bill, sponsored by several East River senators, formally defined a veteran as any person who has served their full military obligation for active duty, reserve or National Guard service and who has been separated or discharged under honorable conditions. Gov. Daugaard signed the bill into law on March 13, 2015.

It’s about time. One hundred twenty-six years after South Dakota was granted statehood, those citizens who honorably wore a military uniform in allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and to our state have been duly recognized in statute. Air Force, National Guard, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines.

The Oath of Office for military officers and the Oath of Enlistment for military enlistees both require absolute affirmation to “support and defend the Constitution” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Both oaths end with the subtle plea “So help me God.”

The service members who take this oath unequivocally submit and dedicate their lives in service to their state and to their country. Their contract with the military demands availability on a 24/7 basis, during peacetime or war, stateside or otherwise. There is no ambiguity.

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When our brothers and sisters in arms raise their right hand and swear that oath, they don’t conclude with “maybe,” or “when convenient.” Our military service people and our state guard personnel have vowed they’ll dutifully step into harm’s way on our behalf. They’ve manned the front line. They’ve signed that proverbial blank check.

We all applaud the legislative sponsors of HB 1179, and we applaud Gov. Daugaard’s endorsement in recognition of past, present and future veterans who’ve committed to our United States and its constitution. And for the first time in state history, my fellow South Dakota veterans can now celebrate both Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day with a codified legislative endorsement recognizing and honoring those commitments.

The two holidays are indeed linked. It’s time for a giving of thanks, especially, to those veterans who have reported to their eternal duty station. It’s time to be thankful at Thanksgiving for those who have relinquished their lives and to those who have devoted their lives to protecting our country.

It’s my hope that every gathering this Thanksgiving season will devote a brief moment in honor and solemn respect to all service men and women; that they’ll continue to stand guard over the liberties guaranteed in our cherished constitution. So help us God.

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