Today marks the 59th time in our history that we celebrate Veterans Day, and as millions of Americans across the country show support for our current soldiers and living veterans, let us also pause to remember our fallen heroes from the past.

The tradition of Veterans Day began with an armistice between Germany and Allied forces that was signed a few months before the official end of World War I. Armistice Day, as it was originally called, was meant only to commemorate that sacrifices made during World War I, but after the wars that followed, and at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Armistice Day became Veterans Day to celebrate the heroism of all veterans.

There are currently 21.8 million living American veterans, with 1.8 million from World War II, 2.5 million from the Korean War, 7.5 million from Vietnam, 3.5 million from the Gulf War era, and another 2.5 million from the post-9/11 era. These men and women have answered the call of duty every time, and they deserve our utmost appreciation and respect.

When reaching out to our nation’s citizen-soldiers this Veterans Day, don’t just look them in the eye, shake their hand, and thank them for their service; ask them to share their stories, and learn from their experiences.

Here are just two:

Sammy L. Davis enlisted in the Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam as an artilleryman, providing fire support for the infantry. On November 18, 1967, his unit became surrounded by more than 1,500 North Vietnamese Army guerrilla fighters. This is his story:

United States Air Force pilot Colonel George E. “Bud” Day was conducting a top-secret mission over North Vietnam when his plane was shot down. He was soon captured by the enemy, but he escaped into the jungles of Vietnam, where he spent two weeks before being shot and re-captured. Day spent the next five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton POW camp.

“We’ve been so fortunate by the accident of birth to be Americans,” Day says, and helping this country stay free “ought to be the primary objective of every American, every day, for the rest of their life.”

One way we as Americans can give back to our veterans is by simply spreading awareness about the dangers they face in the pursuit of ensuring our freedom. Veteran Nation is an award-winning documentary produced by Esprit De Corps, a nonprofit organization led by Heritage’s James Carafano and Steve Bucci that seeks to “inspire all of us to give back to those who gave their all.”

America’s brave sons and daughters who have answered the call to defend our country’s freedom again and again deserve our support and appreciation on this day more than ever. Living veterans are a rare national treasure, and although many of them will claim that they were simply doing their jobs or obeying orders, they are heart and soul of this country, and we have much to learn from them.