There were 283 names called. 283 responses of “Not present Sir.” 283 tollings of a bell. All are soldiers called too soon to death — American heroes one and all. In their place, 283 white crosses or stars stand in silent tribute. We too, stand in quiet reverence, battling tears as we look at the stark reminders of loved ones who are never coming home.

I was one of those present at the Sept. 10, 2016 Fallen Heroes Memorial in Sunbury. The white marble markers are designated for Ohio service members who died in the line of duty while deployed in a combat zone in the Global War on Terrorism since September 11, 2001. The goal is twofold – to never let people forget the sacrifices made for our freedom, and to take care of the families left behind – both now and in the future.

Ceremonies like these and places made to honor the fallen hit home for me. I am the proud mother of Technical Sergeant Patrick J. O’Brien, serving in the United States Air Force. I am also the proud stepmother of Staff Sergeant Sean Owen, currently serving in the United States Army. Patrick has served two tours in Iraq. As a load master he flies in and out of Afghanistan and any number of countries in the Middle East. Sean is a musician and plays for the Army Field Band.

He travels throughout the United States as an ambassador for the Army. Sean will miss, again, his oldest daughter’s birthday. And when he is on tour in the spring, he will miss, again, his youngest daughter’s birthday. Both of these young men (like many soldiers) are unfailing, polite, and unassuming. When thanked for their service, the response is always a version of “just my job, Ma’am (or Sir).”

On Nov. 11 our communities have the opportunity to thank all the men and women who serve our country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans (living and dead), but especially honors living veterans who served their country honorably during war or times of peace.

We are fortunate in central Ohio to have a multitude of events set up to recognize these heroes. Delaware City’s Veterans Parade is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. It will start on Sandusky Street at Ohio Wesleyan University and travel to the fairgrounds. The Board of County Commissioners is honoring veterans and currently serving servicemen/women (and their families) at the Nov. 10 commissioner’s session.

There are many more activities planned in surrounding cities and counties. Please take a minute to check local papers and websites to learn what is happening in your area.

Also important are the families of those serving. Please, on this Veterans Day, take the time to thank family members who remain at home while their fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters are deployed.

The stress on family members during deployments is immense. Children are born without their fathers present. Spouses are raising children on their own. Children miss their parents and only know that daddy or mommy is not going to be there for their first day of school, for their birthday, for Christmas, and for all the important once in a lifetime experiences.

All of the responsibility of running a home falls on the spouse left behind. Couple that with the worry of their loved one potentially not returning home, and the stress skyrockets. There is always a fear, buried behind the everyday scenes of life, the constant unrelenting knowledge that one day two representatives of the United States Armed Forces may knock on your door and your world will fall apart. To say thank you to these families is the very least we can do.

I am forever grateful to the men and women of this country who are willing to go to foreign lands to protect me and to fight for the United States of America. And I am forever grateful to their families who are willing to allow these men and women to do so. Thank you.