Redleg from Illinois posted this speech which encapsulates Veteran's Day for me. This is LuAnn and I's 14th Veteran's Day together.
"Veteran's Day Speech 2012
I was honored to have been asked to give the Veteran's Day Speech. The following is what I presented.
Good afternoon and thank-you for inviting me to share in today’s celebration. Recognize special guests – Mayor Cooper, Commander Orion American Legion and Sherman J Sagadin VFW Post and a special thanks to the Orion Community Band. I must say Orion schools prepared me for the army life having spent the first years of my education at Andover; then Lynn Center; back to Andover; then onto Osco; and oh yea back to Andover; then to Orion Cr Hannah; then to Orion Middle School and then we moved from the farm West of Lynn Center, to the home place now south of Andover and I graduated from AlWood High School 1977….So thank-you for teaching me all about adjusting to change!
When the cannons of World War One were silenced, we thought we had fought the “war to end all wars,” but as history proved, we still needed our Soldiers. We are here to celebrate the strength, courage and dedication of our veterans who not only wield the hammer of conflict but also shape the world for lasting peace. The brave actions of our veterans endure in the pages of history. Today I want us to not only remember their gallantry on the battlefield; we must look at the lasting legacy of strength and service they brought with them when they returned home.
It takes a profound strength to wear this nation’s uniform. Though one day those who serve our nation will eventually remove this uniform, no amount of time, nor strife can sever the golden thread uniting these veterans in a unique and everlasting bond. Once a Soldier, a Soldier for Life. This uniform has changed many times in the last 237 years. What hasn’t changed has been the determination and spiritual strength of the men and women willing to serve this nation. The image of a veteran, as well as the uniform, has changed over the years. Almost half of those serving in the military today are between 22 and 30 years old.
Now, America has the largest population of young veterans since the Vietnam War. During Vietnam, the strength of our Soldiers and our veterans was no different than it is today – what changed was the public’s attitude toward them. That generation remembers returning from war to a country so divided and distracted by internal politics the public had little interest in what our veterans had been doing for the nation. These attitudes and misunderstandings about veterans during the Vietnam era were misguided and unfortunate towards many members of one of our greatest generations of heroes.
Just a little over a month ago, I attended a memorial service in Western Township cemetery at the gravesite honoring SGT Michael W. Lief. A Vietnam War Hero recognized by his community by naming his home front road in his honor. A true American hero who gave his life serving his country and what a great and noble undertaking by his grateful community recognizing one of their own. And today it is about celebrating our heroes: coming together to honor all those who served.
Serving in the Armed Forces of the United States has always been a noble calling. Since the shots at Lexington and Concord were fired and our Revolutionary War began, the American Soldier has been the defender of liberty and democracy. Since their humble beginnings in 1776, the American Soldier has fought and died on battlefields here and abroad to defend our rights and freedoms. We have gathered today to do honor to those who served to protect our nation and our homes. For some, the supreme sacrifice was made on the battlefield; others have since passed. This is the one day of the year that is set apart for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have sacrificed so much and expected nothing more than a thanks. They offered their lives and made sacrifices for the sake of humanity.
I cannot recount all their deeds or valor or bravery. These are recorded in the pages of our country’s history, and forever engraved upon the monuments throughout our land. Let us also remember our future veterans who are serving today -- writing a new history. Because today where ever Old Glory flies at a post, fort, base, ship or installation at some near or far country, you can rest assured there is a soldier, airman, marine or sailor willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for you and I. And just like every Service member before them, when they do lay down their life, the flag is draped across the coffin symbolic of your country’s appreciation, for now it is our responsibility to carry on after the loved ones who grieve their loss. We should remember that Veteran’s Day is more than just another day off from work. It is more than an insert in the paper announcing a special sale. It is a day to remember those, who’ve served in America’s Armed Forces for their country and our freedoms.
They served at places like Shiloh, Antietam, Andersonville and Gettysburg. They fought died in the mud and blood in the trenches of World War I. They served at Pearl Harbor, Bataan, North Africa, Anzio, Salerno, Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. They fought in the cold and misery of Pork Chop Hill and at Chosin Reservoir. They fought in the jungle heat on the ambush trails of Vietnam; the sands of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in Desert Storm; in the cities, villages and country sides of Iraq and yet still in Afghanistan. They fought on land, from ships and submarines at sea…fighters and bombers from the air; using the tools they were provided in this new profession of war or preserving peace.
In those distant places, in harrowing times, these ordinary people from the cities, towns and villages of America, and here in Orion, have performed extraordinary deeds. Some of those heroes I spoke about are here with us today and some are gone now. And in a few minutes I will ask each of them to stand or wave, so we can all recognize them and again tell them thanks. Memories of their acts of heroism must never "fade away", as has been said of old soldiers. It is our task to remember what they said and what they did. We MUST never forget! We gain strength from what our heroes have done. All too often when we leave a Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day commemoration -- we take for granted or even forget for a time all of those who have lost their lives or sacrificed so much to ensure we have the homes we live in -- the freedoms we enjoy -- the privileges we have -- or take for granted those men and women who are still deployed today, away from their families and friends -- who remain in harm’s way.
We are blessed with many privileges -- do not forget! President Kennedy once said “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” Of course today we equally honor service men and women, but the sentiment remains crystal clear. A key component of our nation’s greatness lies in our ability to honor, appreciate, and cherish, through our actions and our memories, all those who died or served to ensure our freedom.
We often hear that freedom has a price and that each generation pays its due. Today is our day to say thank you to those who for generations have foot the bill; to those who have paid so dearly. And to their families and friends whose lives are forever changed, and to whom we owe an enormous debt. Today, military support groups, veterans associations, and everyday Americans make sure that we pay tribute to those who have served and sacrificed.
By honoring our men and women in uniform, groups like you keep alive the memory of those who paid the ultimate price. So I want to thank those of you responsible for putting this ceremony together reminding us to pause and honor our veterans. God Bless America and thank-you for allowing me to share with you on this Veteran’s Day! Can I ask all the veterans to stand or wave so we can all tell you thank-you and I SALUTE You!
LTC Daniel M. Swanson