It’s estimated that more than 500 Vine yarders served in uniform during the second World War, and countless more throughout the history of our Island. Service and self sacrifice have been a hallmark of the Vineyard for centuries, across the spectrum of race, gender and income.

Nearly every Island demographic group has been represented in a branch of the Armed Services — from the descendants of the Azores to the most recent Brazilian Portuguese. These Island sons and daughters may have come from different backgrounds, but the appreciation for something bigger than themselves has been universal.

The unbridled volunteer commitment to service and self-sacrifice in the name of our country is one of the many foundations of the American way. Apart from any personal opinions on America’s entrance into conflict, the fact that we have this capability from an all-volunteer force not only preserves our way of life but also spreads our values of democracy across the globe.

The idea that this duty is carried on the shoulders of young people — some only a few weeks out of high school — is testament to the importance of our American freedoms. It is difficult to imagine an 18-year-old Vineyard kid walking across the stage of the Tabernacle on a glorious June day — and then a few short months later walking across the rice paddies of Vietnam, sands of Iraq or mountain passages of Afghanistan.

A love for this country and love for this Island has placed our sons and daughters on nearly every continent in the pursuit of service and American freedoms.

Unequivocally, the risk is well worth the reward. There are very few places in the world that provide such natural beauty, high quality education and sense of community as the Vineyard. There is a reason a person can come to this Island, start his or her own business, and move up financially. There is a reason that someone can come to this Island, do well in a public education system and become a doctor, lawyer, or scientist. And there is a reason that someone can come to this Island, work hard and build their own American dream.

Ultimately America is still the land of opportunity. And this opportunity is paid for by the service of our Island sons and daughters who walk across that Tabernacle stage and into world — knowing they carry the full weight and risk of their decision to serve.

On this Veterans Day, I ask that you reflect on individual and collective service, and pause to consider and appreciate the many reasons we have chosen to make this Island our home.

James Hagerty is Edgartown town administrator and a U.S. Marine veteran.