For many of us, Veteran’s Day elicits some deep-seeded gratitude for family and friends who have served in our modern-day military. My husband’s brother, Adam, served for many years in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan as well as Iraq twice.

One summer, our extended family gathered up the West Fork of the Bitterroot River for a reunion and Adam was deployed at the time. Every other year, we take a big family picture and this time, Adam was the only one missing. My mother-in-law had been given a piñata in the shape of an Army soldier and we used it in the family photo to represent Adam. It made for a cute picture, but as might be expected, the little cousins didn’t see the emotion behind a stand-in for Adam – they only saw a colorful piñata full of candy surprises. It was a good opportunity to talk to them about his military service, sacrifice and how much we missed him and were praying for him. None of us could have dared see the piñata destroyed until we knew he was home safe. So that piñata became our symbol of hope and support.

VeteranGratefully, Adam did come home safe and sound from that tour and we celebrated together again on New Year’s Eve with – you guessed it – a rowdy piñata party where candy went flying and we could all set aside our anxieties and worries about his safe return.

I often think of what his life would be like now as a veteran if he had come home physically wounded. That’s one reason why I always donate to support veterans who have been paralyzed or disabled during battle. So many suffer for the rest of their lives because of their service. It’s important that we support them emotionally and financially to show our respect and it’s so important that we pause on Veteran’s Day to begin an important season of gratitude.