Buck-Taylor Honors VeteransNovember 13, 2013
Good Morning Everyone
I very much appreciate and am honored to be given the opportunity as your State Representative to speak to you about veterans on Veterans Day.
As many of you know November 11th at 11:00 a.m. in 1918 was the day and time that the Armistice was signed at the end of World War I. That war was called the War to end all wars. Unfortunately as we all know, that has not been the case. Since then, we have had many of our family, friends and neighbors sacrifice life and limb to preserve those ideals that we view as uniquely American. And we must never forget those who returned to us with life altering wounds to their spirit, their minds and their hearts.
When I was trying to put together some words to share with you today I remembered a newspaper article that I had recently read. It was about a wonderful welcome received by members of our armed forces returning from Afghanistan at an airport. They were given a water salute and some people in first class gave up their seats. People let them know how much they appreciated them for their sacrifices for our country.
Reading about that made me feel really, really good but it also reminded me of a time when that was not always the case. I am speaking about some of the people of my generation, people of the Vietnam War generation.
The time of the Vietnam War was a time of much social and political upheaval in America. And many people were unable to separate their strong political beliefs from the men and women who were sacrificing themselves to defend American ideals and to promote freedom in the world.
I know that some the veterans here today possibly personally experienced some of the disrespect and dishonor that was shown to those who returned from that War. And I know that if they did not personally experience that trauma they have brothers and sister in arms who did.
President George Washington said “the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
So, I know that it may not be much, but on behalf of the misguided people of the Vietnam War generation, I offer my sincerest apologies to all of the Vietnam veterans who were shown anything less than the gratitude, appreciation and respect due them when they returned home.
It is good to see that we have matured enough as a people to know that the returning armed forces members today deserve our honor and respect regardless of our thoughts about the politics of those who govern us. But we need to do more for our returning warriors than just a warm welcome home.
President Kennedy said “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Let us always remember when we see a veteran that, as so beautifully written by Charles Province during the Vietnam War era:
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Many people go through life wondering whether or not they have made a difference. Please let me assure all of you veterans of the many wars and conflicts that we have had since the First World War that each and every one of you did make a difference.
And I want each and every one of you to know that when I say God Bless America I make sure that God knows you are the first people I want God to bless, because you have given so much to all of us.
Thank you for your service.