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Missouri is home to more than 438,000 veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries throughout the world. These incredibly brave men and women answered the call to serve and have dedicated their lives to protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans each and every day. While November is Veterans Appreciation Month, there is never a bad time to thank a veteran for what they've done for this country — which is the reason I started the "Valentines for Veterans" program.

Valentine's Day does not share the spiritual importance of Christmas or receive the same fanfare as Thanksgiving, but it is a wonderful occasion to let people in your life know you care. This can be family and loved ones or complete strangers who might appreciate some kind words. Our veterans have given so much to this nation, this initiative is just a small way for our community to come together and give something to them.

Missourians are the kindest people I know. Every year, I am amazed by the generosity of the 3rd District and the number of valentines we receive for "Valentines for Veterans." Last year, more than 12,000 valentines were delivered to my office to be dropped off at local VA hospitals, veterans homes and veterans service organizations. These notes are a way to let our veterans know their fellow Missourians and community are thinking of them and are forever grateful for the incredible sacrifice they made for us.

I look forward to this event every February and am so grateful for the schools, youth groups, churches and individuals in the 3rd District for taking the time to participate in this effort, brightening the day for these brave men and women who have served our nation. To participate in "Valentines for Veterans," please drop off valentines to my Jefferson City, Wentzville or Washington, Missouri, offices by 5 p.m. Feb. 5. More guidelines can be found on my website. Thank you in advance to those planning to participate! It is so important to let our veterans know their community cares.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., shares his perspective each week on national issues, including ones that affect Missouri. He represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 635-7232.

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