One year ago, the national commander of the American Legion was urging his countrymen to remember on Veterans Day the debt owed to those who had served in the U.S. armed forces. He was concerned that in a time of peace, people might take that sacrifice for granted.

There is no such problem on this Nov. 11 Veterans Day.With 200,000 Americans called to duty in the Persian Gulf where they face a possible shooting war at any time, the awareness of the risks of military service are all too clear.

Veterans Day this year is poignant in a very close and personal way for many families. It has special meaning for the rest of us as well.

The knowledge that if fighting breaks out in the gulf, there will be casualties, perhaps many of them, makes this year's observance especially significant.

How best to commemorate Veterans Day? Visiting military gravesides is only the beginning. There are live veterans who still need help - the crippled, the sick, the forgotten who can be found in any veterans hospital. A visit there would have greater meaning than at any graveside.

The holiday honors not only those Americans who have died in their country's wars in the past 200 years, but also those millions who have worn their country's uniform across those centuries.

One of the greatest gifts for those still in uniform is something from home - letters, a small remembrance. These do not necessarily have to go to the Persian Gulf. Hundreds of thousands of American men and women serve in other places and should not be forgotten, either.

The greatest gift of all is peace. But peace can be precarious in a world where power-hungry, heavily armed dictators like Saddam Hussein, who earned his title, the Butcher of Baghdad, even before he crushed Kuwait and seized U.S. hostages and others as human shields.

Let us use Veterans Day to remember how much the nation owes to those who have served and sacrificed in the cause of freedom - and who still serve.