Military veterans hear it all the time: “Thank you for your service.”

 Usually, they say, “You’re welcome,” or “Thank you for your support.”

They are in the 1 percent who took an oath to protect the nation, accepted the risks that might be assigned to them, and managed to come out alive on the other side.

 Pressed, they would tell you that they signed up voluntarily, knowing the risk-reward calculus, and were only doing the jobs they were given. Most seem to be uncomfortable to be regarded as heroes.

 But to the vast majority of Americans, and count us among them, that is what they are. We see some of the very best young people America has go off to fight.

 Veterans were treated differently when they returned from the Vietnam War — not only by angry war protesters, but by their own government.

 Unlike veterans today, those who served in Vietnam — many of them drafted, and forced to go — were sent home singly, without ceremony. They were dumped back into a society where large numbers failed to appreciate their experience, and felt inclined to blame the warrior, not just the war policy.

 Their own government wasn’t prepared for their baffling needs, from exposure to toxic chemicals to the mystifying, unseen hazards of post traumatic stress disorder.

 It is amazing and humbling, thus, to see the way Vietnam veterans have turned out for the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are there, in the funeral processions, at the parades, in the public square, holding out their hands and saying, “Welcome home.”

 When you ask one why, he might say: We don’t want them to be treated the way we were.

 So it’s a better thing that today’s veterans are welcomed, thanked and appreciated. But we cannot forget that they are very much like the rest of us, full of hopes, fears, anxieties and uncertainties — humans like the rest of us, confronted with choices and just trying to do the right thing.

 Too many who serve give their lives in the process. Last week's scenes from North Ogden, Utah, where the mayor was mourned after he was killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan, remind us of the ultimate cost of military service.

 The mayor, Brent Taylor, was a major in the Utah National Guard. He was on his fourth war-zone deployment. Before he left, he told his constituents he would be in Afghanistan for about a year, because “service is really what leadership is all about.”

 “I just don’t know of a finer man,” one North Ogden resident told reporters.

 Mr. Taylor is survived by a wife, Jennie, and seven children. His death at the hands of an Afghan man he was helping to train leaves an enormous hole in his family, his community and a grateful nation.

 At a service on Wednesday night, his widow spoke of her husband’s love of his country and his desire to serve in the military.

 ”God bless America," she said. "I know not what else to say — God bless America."

 “Thank you for your service” may not be the perfect words, but sometimes, they are all we have.