Veteran’s Day Speech
Below is a starting point for your Veteran’s Day Speech, talk, or conversation.
Thank you for that kind introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, my wife and I would like to thank you for allowing us the honor to spend this special day with you. I especially would like to thank Douglas for his assistance in getting me here today.
On this Veteran’s Day celebration, we gather to honor all American men and women who served in the Armed Forces throughout our nation’s history, people like you and I. From the days of Washington’s Continental Army at Valley Forge, through the battlefields like Little Round Top at Gettysburg, the Doughboys at the Second Battle of the Marne, GIs storming the beach at Normandy, or the 1st Marine Division at the Chosin Reservoir. Veterans are the Navy’s Vietnam River Patrol Force along the Mekong delta and Air Force Guard and Reserve units called to duty in the Persian Gulf. Veterans are those who have served our nations call in far away places like Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Rwanda, Somalia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our nations Veterans have served not only in war, but also on the brink of war, during the Berlin blockade, the Cuban missile Crisis, and the Cold War. And today, our nation’s military stands ready with over 31,000 of our soldiers deployed in 83 different countries. You know they understand the meaning of Veterans Day.
People like you and I understand the true purpose of Veterans Day and that it is more than just another “Federal holiday.” We know that official recognition of the end of the first modern global conflict — World War I – – was made in a concurrent resolution enacted by Congress and approved May 13, 1938, which made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday – – a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day. “Armistice Day ” was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the Nation’s history, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Later that same year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first ‘Veterans Day Proclamation.’
We each are aware of the sacrifices of those who have paid the ultimate price. They are our friends, family, acquaintances and fellow veterans. They are ordinary people, people like Specialist-4th Class Thomas McMahon of the 196th Infantry Brigade in the Quang Tin province, Republic of Vietnam, who was present when the lead elements of his company came under heavy fire from well-fortified enemy positions, and 3 of his comrades fell seriously wounded. Spec. 4 McMahon, with complete disregard for his safety, left his covered position and ran through intense enemy fire to the side of 1 of the wounded, administered first aid and then carried him to safety. He returned through the hail of fire to the side of a second wounded man. Although painfully wounded by an exploding mortar round while returning the wounded man to a secure position, Sp4c. McMahon refused medical attention and heroically ran back through the heavy enemy fire toward his remaining wounded comrade. He fell mortally wounded before he could rescue the last man. Our nation honored Specialist McMahon with the Medal of Honor and we honor him, and thousands like him, through our memory of their supreme sacrifices.
But does our country truly remember the Specialist McMahon’s of our services? As our military downsizes to levels equivalent to the pre-World War II era, less and less of our nation’s youth turn to military service. Fewer have ties to the armed forces, and we have an entire generation that has only experienced peace. A fact is that last year’s average college graduate was most likely born in 1975, the year that Saigon fell in Vietnam.
But there is hope. This past summer the entire nation was fascinated by the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” The press reported on the impact it had on many veterans of World War Two and other periods. The film’s relentless and brutal imagery brought war home to all who saw it. It also brought home the sacrifices all those in military service must be prepared to make; and the sacrifices millions of veterans have lived through to keep America strong and free. Never before have so many Americans untouched by war or military service had the opportunity to fully appreciate the sacrifices our veterans of all wars have made in service to America. For his work, the film’s director, Steven Spielberg, received the Distinguished Civilian Service Award from Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera. Speilberg said that “privately I wondered, and collectively all of my collaborators wondered, if what we were trying to accomplish would gain approval of those veterans of D-Day, as well as the veterans of Korea, Vietnam, and all the violent struggles … that have engaged this nation throughout the course of the 20th century. Secretary Caldera said the film provides an “unprecedented view to combat” and makes Americans “stop and think what it means to sacrifice for one’s country.” He told Spielberg the award represents the gratitude of more than a million soldiers in the total Army today and millions who served before, because the film tells the story of their fortitude, courage and sacrifices. These Hollywood portrayals of the horrors of war have again sparked feelings of gratitude to America’s military.
But we need to do more to honor our fellow veterans. We must belong to and support service organizations, like the American Legion, that looks out for our interests. We must participate in our communities and continue to serve our nation. And we must demand from our elected representatives that our country honor commitments made to veterans, either in writing or implied. We must stand up for our commitments, as we all know there is strength in numbers. By doing so, we honor our comrades like Specialist Four McMahon.
Today I stand before you to report that your American forces are trained, motivated and ready to defend our nation’s interests. But with that statement I must also share some concerns. Our top military commanders first reported to the President, then later to Congress, “that evidence is mounting that the world’s best-trained, best-equipped fighting force is losing its edge.” Pentagon officials are seeing more signs that the U.S. military is overworked, underpaid and unhappy. Just last month when Secretary of Defense William Cohen visited the forces deployed to the Persian Gulf, their questions to him were: “Sir, I’d like to ask about our retirement'” asked the first. “Is the military really committed to raising our pay to match our civilian counterparts?” one asked. “Will there be more money for training?” asked another. “What about spare parts?” These are the questions that concern our young soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.
It takes more than just a strong commitment to forge a quality force. It also requires sound fiscal investments in our military. As the Secretary said later “There is no substitute for a forward-deployed military that helps shape American foreign policy and prestige.” And ladies and gentlemen, our nation must adequately fund our national military strategy. The prices we pay with our mistakes are not reflected in a downturn of our bottom-line, but in blood on distant battlefields. It is paid in mass exoduses of our junior officers and noncommissioned officers, and it is paid by whittling away at the strength of America.
As we come together to honor our nations veterans, I ask each of you to remember that behind us comes a new generation of veterans. We owe it to them to share our strengths and knowledge to allow them to serve as we have. We as a military owe them good, realistic training, adequate resources and a quality of life equal to the people of the nation they serve to defend. With commitments like those, we can assure that our military will be strong for the future.
I want to thank you again for allowing me to share these thoughts with you, and God Bless America.