Grateful. Grateful that there are human beings who walk the path. To the path of exposure, exposure to the parts of life that the majority hide from. Those who willfully subject themselves daily to the worst parts of society. I consider myself lucky, lucky to have people in my life with a quality few hold; who are selfless, who understand the all too real concept of public service. The first responders, Emergency Medical Technicians, Fire Fighters, Law Enforcement.

As a Soldier, my perspective on the world and it’s workings are quite broad. Over the course of more than a decade, I have learned numerous skills. Skills to address critical situations in the most chaotic of situations. Living in this piece of life shifts your thinking. Lately, I have recognized how lucky I am. Lucky that the rules and laws of war, the missions we face, the decisions we as humans have to make in situations where adrenaline and reaction reign supreme, are in austere environments.

Those “blink of an eye” moments, where not only your life, but the life of another, and the lives of many others can drastically shift. There are people who willingly live this reality daily. Remarkable souls who have seen more stress, loss of life, blood, sights that singe into your consciousness, than anyone person should see. This is their every day, their career, their life. Because in this field, your work is your life. You have sacrificed more than you dare to admit because something inside you has driven you to this purpose.

To live in this reality, where life can literally change at any moment. Where you face situations where every variable is playing against you, but you must engage, or more life will be lost. Moments where training, reflexes, adrenaline and tactics take over. This daily life strains those in this field, their families and so much more.

Their profession – it is not for them. It is for you. For that moment in life where you are helpless, vulnerable, scared. When you need someone, anyone, to help. A hero, someone to save your home from complete destruction, someone to save the life of someone you love, someone to stop the one who has destroyed you, physically and mentally. These amazing people choose this heart-wrenching career not for themselves, but for you.

In today’s world, I feel the need to speak louder than ever for those of you who know all too well how real life can be. Those who face every day with true uncertainty. While most Americans battle traffic on their commute, deal with a coworker’s mood or a bosses assignments and deadlines, you begin each day on a different path. There is no mundane, no typical work day. There is a daily stress only those in your field can truly understand. There are thoughts, thoughts that stick with you from a daily reality that tests your every limit. There is pride, pride in knowing that every day, what you do truly makes a difference, truly matters in this world.

Our social landscape and perspective has deviated over time. Our field, our family, those who serve a higher cause, has come under scrutiny. In every demographic, field, industry, job, family, exists a few bad apples. Those who tarnish the true nature and purpose of the collective. This is life. Those who have ulterior motives, agendas, interests that will result in personal influence or wealth, will use these outliers to their advantage. They will paint a picture that lines their pockets. History has shown us time and again that these people exist. But it also shows us that their time is in short supply. The social conscious awakens. Society, community, when pushed too far, always rights it’s course.

No matter what the news of the day, the next spin story or the next conspiracy theory thrusts onto the public, there is still a job to be done. A job unlike any other. One that can give a person the greatest gifts, yet also the worst of days. To those of you who chose this life, who live it each and every day. Thank you. There is a collective, standing with you at all times. Your work, your life, your sacrifice, does not go unnoticed. Thank you, for serving our towns, counties, cities, states and our country.

Anthony Heiland is a veteran of two tours in Iraq and a non-commissioned officer in the Ohio Army National Guard. He is the founder of Wright State Veterans League, which influenced the construction and opening of the Wright State Veteran and Military Center. He continues to serve our country, engaging in veteran-focused projects with Wright State while applying his skills and knowledge in the private defense sector. He lives in southwest Ohio with his wife, son, and daughter.