By Gov. Jay Nixon

One in 12 Missourians – almost half a million of our state’s 6 million citizens – have served in our nation’s armed forces. Now ranging in age from their early twenties to over 95 years old, they defended the freedoms we hold dear, both during times of conflict and times of peace.

The veterans among us are in every walk of life: police officers and small business owners, teachers and attorneys, college students and retirees. They are proud to have served their country and state. With their sacrifice, they have earned a level of gratitude from us that we can never adequately meet.

This Veterans Day weekend, I will be in Springfield for the deployment of 100 members of a Missouri National Guard unit. As they leave for duty in Afghanistan, it will again be a vivid reminder that there are thousands of Missourians currently in our military – and that behind every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine is a family here at home.

And on Veterans Day itself, I will be at an annual ceremony at Hermann High School that salutes Missouri veterans for what they have given our country. The students will honor veterans who now are the ages of their grandparents or great-grandparents, but who often were only just out of high school themselves when they enlisted.

And although we always can and should do more, Missourians can be proud of how we support both our veterans and our active military.

This past summer, I signed into law several bills encompassing a wide range of benefits and protections for current and former members of the military. Those new laws are making it easier for troops who are deployed to vote in elections back home; they are giving greater educational and career opportunities to returning veterans; and they are helping to return military medals that have been unclaimed to their rightful owners or heirs.

The new laws bolster other programs we have initiated and laws passed in recent years. In 2010, I launched the Show-Me Heroes program to encourage Missouri employers to hire veterans, and to recognize the efforts of those employers. To date, more than 3,438 employers have taken the Show-Me Heroes pledge, meaning they will give first consideration to veterans when they have job openings. Those employers have put more than 4,622 veterans to work in the past three years. The employers know they are not just helping those veterans, they also are getting a leader who is trained, disciplined, and who will work hard.

In 2012, we strengthened Show-Me Heroes by adding an on-the-job training component for returning veterans employers agree to hire. These resources are helping Missouri veterans obtain necessary skills to transition from military to civilian careers.

Missouri also has become an attractive location for retired military veterans, many of whom are now active in the civilian workforce. A law I signed in 2009 is phasing out the state tax on their military pensions, and the tax will be eliminated by 2016. It’s another way we are recognizing their service to our country, and bringing these still-productive citizens to the Show Me State.

Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11, the date in 1918 when the First World War ended. It was a war in which Missourians bravely fought and died. All the veterans from that war have passed on, with the last being 109-year-old Frank Buckles, of Bethany, three years ago.

The veterans among us today – whether they fought in the Kasserine Pass or Kandahar Province – are living treasures. This Veterans Day, I hope you will join me in taking time to let the men and women who have served know that we greatly appreciate and admire what they have accomplished, and what they have sacrificed on our behalf.