From Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to the Haiti earthquake, to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, when massive humanitarian crises occur around the world, you can count on the U.S. military to be on the front lines alongside American diplomats and development professionals. Forming the new “strategic triad,” defense, diplomacy and development constitute the foundation of American global leadership and the backbone of our foreign policy.

In times of conflict, no military force is more feared or respected than the U.S. military. None is better trained, better equipped, or better prepared. Wherever catastrophe or unrest exists, our troops stand ready to respond. We are honored and thankful for your service, and remember and respect the many who gave their lives far from home.

On this Veterans Day, we also are reminded that the best way to thank our military members is to not send them into harm’s way unless essential to our national interest. War must always be the last resort of America’s power. As fellow uniformed warriors, we continue to be proud of our service overseas, but we want to ensure that hard-fought gains for the country are not lost. Providing and creating security can only achieve so much if economic and political progress do not follow.

Veterans Day has long celebrated America’s commitment to promoting global stability. Armistice Day was created in 1938 to commemorate the end of the first World War nearly two decades earlier. It was “dedicated to the cause of world peace” and to honor those who served. In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day. Since then, Veterans Day has expanded to include those who have served in all wars and to remember the devastating consequences of an absence of America’s leadership in the world.

American development and diplomatic assistance play a key role in protecting our country and keeping our troops out of harm’s way. Investing in developing economies creates hope, opportunity and prosperity. Building schools and improving literacy lead to progress and new ways of seeing the world. Promoting conflict resolution seeks to end cycles of violence.

You rarely hear about the places in the world where stability and support help create a lasting peace. War correspondents are not often embedded into vaccination programs, education projects or economic development initiatives. But that does not mean these success stories do not exist.

Just 15 years ago, Colombia was a violent and lawless place on the brink of being a failed state and overrun by narcoterrorists who threatened America’s interests in our own hemisphere. The U.S., through civilian development programs supported by military trainers, partnered with the Colombian government on drug interdiction, economic development and education programs to defeat the traffickers.

Today, Colombia is the third-largest export market for the U.S. in Latin America — and the drug-fueled insurgency has been nearly eradicated. All without American troops firing a single bullet.

Occasionally, we hear people say the U.S. can’t afford to be so generous overseas. They suggest the money would be better spent at home. But these investments — less than 1 percent of the federal budget — help keep our troops safe and our country secure. Gen. James Mattis, now retired, understood the interconnected nature of defense, diplomacy and development better than most when, in 2013 testimony before Congress while head of U.S. Central Command, stated, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

Our civilian programs overseas help keep the faith with veterans and their service by preventing conflict and strengthening our partnerships around the world. These programs save countless dollars and, more importantly, lives in conflicts that we do not have to fight.

Since 9/11, we know that terrorism has no borders. Our top generals and admirals regularly remind the nation that the military alone cannot keep us safe. Our investments in diplomacy and economic development — alongside a strong defense — help mitigate instability and prevent conflict before it reaches our shores.

As so many Americans do today — and have in past generations — we proudly and willingly served our country fully knowing we would deploy into combat. This Veterans Day we honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. We salute those who are on the front lines protecting America from threats around the world. We also recognize the many who are committed to serve overseas as diplomats, public servants and development workers. Their jobs are not easy ones. Countless lives have been, and will continue to be, saved because of their heroic work.

Paul Chevalier, a retired Marine sergeant major, served in Vietnam and is a past state commander of the New Hampshire Veterans of Foreign Wars. Air Force Maj. Zach Nunn deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and currently serves in the Iowa House of Representatives. Army Maj. James Smith deployed to Afghanistan and currently serves in the South Carolina House of Representatives. They are state leaders for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Veterans for Smart Power.

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