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Secretary’s Column: Over the Holidays, Honoring Those Who Strengthen America

As Americans celebrate the holiday season, we have a chance to catch up with family and friends, count our blessings and reflect on the year behind us.

Looking back on 2012, I am proud of those across rural America who stayed resilient in the face of disaster. They managed farms, ranches and Main Street businesses through a record drought, an historic hurricane, and more. Ultimately, their hard work kept the momentum of rural America going strong.

I’m thankful for the thousands of men and women who, year in and year out, step up to serve our nation. I know that many of these military service members come from our small towns and rural communities – and that no matter where they’re from, each is a hero to our nation.  They’re stationed around the world today and many will spend their holidays away from family and friends, so that we can be safely at home with ours.

I am further grateful at this time of year for the service and sacrifice of our 22 million American veterans – more than 6 million of whom live, work and raise their families in rural America.

Finally I am heartened that so many Americans stand up during the holidays to help those who are struggling.  Volunteers from our smallest towns to our biggest cities are helping ensure that no one goes hungry over the holidays – especially our children. They’re making sure that everyone has a warm place to sleep. They’re working hard to make sure every family the chance to have a special holiday celebration.

I hope that everyone who is able will give some of their time during the holidays, and beyond, because every minute we give strengthens the resilience of our nation.

As we celebrate the holiday season, we have much to be thankful for. I hope that you’ll join me in saying “thank you” to those who keep us going strong as a nation – from the brave men and women defending our freedom around the world, to the volunteers who strengthen our communities here at home.

Wherever you are during this special time of year, I wish you a happy and safe holiday.

For an audio version of this column, please click here.

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