WIESBADEN, Germany - It's been seven years since the images of airplanes smashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were seared into our memories. Seven years since the world changed dramatically - especially for those who have grown up in the wake of 9-11.

For military families, Sept. 11, 2001, signaled the start of a never-ending series of deployments, family separations, and friends and loved ones sometimes lost.

Unlike past wars, though, where the entire nation was mobilized to support a war effort to battle a common foe through massive involvement by all segments of our society, the Global War on Terrorism has meant only a minority of Americans being called to travel to faraway lands to fight an elusive enemy that lurks mostly in the shadows, often indistinguishable from the general population.

While this war has continued - sometimes forgotten by the majority of Americans who have gone about their daily lives far from the frontlines - government organizations such as Homeland Security, which sprang up as a result of 9-11, and U.S. citizens across the nation have faced natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, Tropical Storm Hanna, wildfires and other life-altering events.

For those who can recall a time when entire nations battled furiously around the globe, when populations were decimated, villages annihilated and cities razed to the ground during two world wars - and a time when Americans were divided as a nation by an unpopular war in Vietnam, not sure even whether to call it a conflict or a war - the Global War on Terrorism may seem less significant in comparison.

But for those who have been in the middle of the fray, who have dedicated their lives to trying to make a change in places where intolerance, brutality and fear have long ruled, who have risked injury and even death because for the greater good of all Americans - the Global War on Terrorism is anything but insignificant.