In its truest form America is an idea, the idea to have the freedom to better oneself and to pursue one’s own path in life without the interference of government.

This idea became a reality for an entire people in the summer of 1776 when 13 separate colonies decided with one voice to declare their independence from the world’s only super power.

The task of throwing off the yoke of Great Britain was nearly insurmountable and wouldn’t have been possible if it were it not for men and women willing to die for an idea.

The history of this country is filled with those who were willing to die for a simple notion.

Freedom is so easy to take for granted, easy to give away but precious to those who fight for it.

The history of this great country is filled with those who were willing to fight for it.

Men like my grandfather Robert P. Hinman, who was a 16-year-old boy when he joined the Army prior to the onset of the Second World War.

Hinman served in the 2nd Army Rangers and saw combat starting in North Africa in Operation Torch.

He was with General George S. Patton in 1943 when American and British forces pushed the Germans back in Italy.

He climbed the cliffs of Point Du Hoc with 240 other men on D-Day as part of Operation Overlord in perhaps the deadliest battle of the war.

He helped to push German troops back while fighting tooth and nail in the Battle of the Bulge in 1945.

Men like Eddie Dean Langston who in 1950 volunteered to serve in the Army Infantry in the front lines against North Korea.

He spent three years deployed, serving from the onset of the war until the end of active fighting in 1953.

Our nation’s veterans have been serving this country with honor and distinction since before we became a nation.

They don’t serve for the glory or recognition and many rarely talk about their service outside of family or close friends.

They all have one thing in common at some point for some reason they felt called to defend the idea that is America.

They swore a sacred oath in front of God to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

When asked about his service Langston, like many veterans, humbly responded, “I could not have been more proud to serve my country.’

“Being a Korean veteran means a lot to me," he said. “There’s a lot of veterans out there and I’m proud to of served on the front lines.”

Some of these men and women made it home, some whole, some not, and some are buried in foreign soils with our nations flag flying over them.

Most of us have never slept in a fox hole soaking wet with a loaded rifle or hauled the dead in a wheelbarrow across a sandy beach.

We don’t have to watch the sides of the road for reflections that might be bombs on our drive to work, or stand in a doorway explaining to a hysterical mother that her son or daughter saved their life.

We don’t have to pass on comfort items in order to carry more ammunition or take a shower with baby wipes for months on end.

For us a mistake at our jobs doesn’t mean the person next to you might die.

For those who protected the idea and who continue to protect the idea, I am grateful for each one of you this Thanksgiving.

Darin Hinman, who himself served in the U.S. Marines, is the sports editor for the Grove Sun. He may be reached at sports@grovesun.com.