Veterans Day 2020 is here, and it is a time to reflect on the service our fellow Americans have given to our country and the cause of democracy.

It is a time to honor our veterans as well as those currently enlisted in the military and serving in the reserves.

We should take time, not only to thank them for their service, but also to listen to their stories about why they joined and their experiences both during and after their service.

Their stories can be inspiring and humbling. They have stories of bravery and courage as well as what it means to serve others and to sacrifice for something bigger than ourselves. Our veterans have stories of opportunity, friendship and hope. Those are life lessons that reach well beyond battlefields, foxholes and military bases.

Many of our veterans continue to serve their country, communities and neighbors long past their times in uniform. Service and commitment to others are very much in their DNA.

They are serving as first responders and health care workers on the front lines of 2020. Veterans are also making a difference in their communities as small business owners, entrepreneurs — and as journalists and employees at The Star Democrat.

Our veterans are volunteering and helping our neighbors in need. They often serve on very different — but very important — front lines after their service. We should find more ways to encourage, enable and honor that type of service.

Our communities very much need it right now.

Like many of us, our veterans are also challenged by everything that has happened this year. Their physical health, mental health, jobs and small businesses have all been put in harm’s way because of the pandemic and all its associated shutdowns. When we have a chance to support local businesses or nonprofits helping our communities, that can also mean we are helping our veterans and others who have served our country and the Shore.

We should also remember the root motivations of our veterans’ service.

Many of our veterans joined the military service because they are patriots and wanted a life with a purpose greater than themselves.

They are also serving the promise of America. They are serving our democracy. That means our liberties, freedoms and opportunities. Our veterans serve what makes America different from other countries and cultures. We have not always lived up to those promises as a country or culture. But the American people and our veterans are always striving toward the fulfillment of those promises.

Our liberties and discourse are definitely challenged right now. We are too prone to divide and to shout each other down when we disagree. Too many of us believe opposing views are not just wrong but need to be silenced or censored.

That may be human nature, but it is not the promise of America or the Constitution our veterans take an oath to protect. It is not the America our veterans served — and continue to serve.

We cannot lose sight of our freedoms and liberties. Those include the ability to debate and peacefully disagree with each other.

As we reflect on Veterans Day 2020, we should focus on veterans’ service, why they served our country and the promises of America they cherish.

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