As I write these words, over 16,000 members of the United States Foreign Service are serving our country around the world.

America’s diplomats and development professionals help prevent the spread of conflict, open markets for U.S. goods, assist Americans abroad, negotiate agreements in line with U.S. goals, report on threats to the U.S. homeland and work alongside our military colleagues on a range of missions, from stopping inter-ethnic conflict in the Balkans and stabilizing Iraq to earthquake relief in Haiti.

Few of my fellow Mainers realize how challenging and important the work of the Foreign Service is to our nation. I proudly joined the Foreign Service shortly after graduating from college in Maine and served over a 40-year trajectory with the Department of State.

In 1996, the U.S. Senate designated the first Friday in May as “American Foreign Service Day.” On this day Foreign Service members around the world and here at home, including our retired members, come together to recognize and celebrate the thousands of people who commit their lives to serving our country abroad and the impact their work has on us all.

Dozens of current and former Foreign Service members and their families are proud say we are from Maine, and some of us are lucky enough to be able to spend time back in the Pine Tree State in retirement. I can only hope that America’s diplomats, and the important work they do, are in your thoughts. It is also my hope that my fellow countrymen take this time to get to know the Foreign Service, learn about what we do and realize the indispensable role that these extraordinary Americans play in protecting and serving our fellow citizens, interests and values.

Lawrence E. Butler

retired ambassador to Macedonia