Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport in Kabul, Aug.16.

Editor’s note: A version of the following editorial has appeared on previous Veterans Days in this newspaper:

America is built on representative government and capitalism, two institutions that recognize how fickle humans can be.

The marketplace of ideas we call politics and the marketplace of products we call free enterprise both assume that people are pliable creatures, likely to change their minds in a hurry. We honor choice as a national birthright.

But the country’s freedom is protected by men and women who give up a world of choices so that we can continue to have ours. They are the Americans who work in our military, a call to service that doesn’t indulge inconstancy or caprice. They deserve our honor this Veterans Day — and every Veterans Day.

One cannot easily opt out once a commitment to military service is made. And when the battle is joined, we ask brave men and women to risk their lives — yes, their very lives — to defend this nation’s interests. It’s not a sacrifice that can properly be undertaken on a whim, shaped by the latest poll numbers or focus groups.

That’s why those long rows of white tombstones at our nation’s military cemeteries are such a striking part of the American landscape. They demonstrate, in a country touched by flux and equivocation and the endless mutability of opinion, that there have always been warriors who embrace principle as a fixed star, not a fashion statement.

Tiny American flags bloom from those cemeteries every Memorial Day, the day we set aside to honor the nation’s war dead. Veterans Day recognizes the veterans yet with us — the ones we can still find in our neighborhoods, our churches and temples, the grocery store. America is blessed by the presence of these veterans in our civic life. They bear living witness not only to the privilege of liberty but its costs.

For veterans of the long war in Afghanistan, this year saw a remarkable event, the sudden collapse of the elected government and a chaotic takeover by Taliban terrorists. Those events cannot help but inspire reflection and sometimes anger over the sacrifices made in our battles in a far-off country.

But Afghanistan's fall into the night prompted veterans across America, including Louisiana, to work with government and charitable agencies to provide new homes for the guides and interpreters who worked closely with our troops during their trials. Shared sacrifice inspires a comradeship that does not fade and always delivers for those who also served in combat.

Not all members of the military see battle during their service, but there are other hardships in serving in America’s armed forces. The profound pain of separation from family, the loss of privacy, the boredom — these are no small things. It is right and good that we should acknowledge those sacrifices each November, as the holidays approach. This Thanksgiving and yuletide season, as in every year, soldiers and sailors and airmen will be serving far away from home.

Today, we pause, in a month marked by gatherings for gratitude, to say thanks to our veterans. Their contributions are easy to overlook, but we forget their service at our peril.

Our Views: Out of Afghan tragedy, let us bring more new Americans to these shores