We recognize that all our veterans have given something of themselves to this country and some have given all — laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear. Today, we especially honor our great veterans who have served in the defense of liberty by honorably wearing the uniform of this great nation.
To all our veterans we have a simple yet heartfelt message — thank you — all of you, for your service. We want you to know that your example serves to inspire others who follow in your footsteps. Thank you for your selfless service in peacetime and war, here in this nation and throughout the world. For all veterans, regardless of their service and the era in which they have served, have paid a price for the freedom we enjoy.
Our veterans have paid with their courage and honor. They have defended America through both the best and worst of times and they have performed their difficult duties tirelessly with little recognition or fanfare.
They have sought neither fortune nor fame. A simple love of country and liberty compelled them to serve this great nation of ours. We salute our veterans now for this selfless service and recognize that their devotion to duty makes them a source of inspiration for all to emulate. They are our heroes because they have repeatedly triumphed over adversity. They know what it is like to stand guard in the chill of the night while others sleep.
They understand the meaning of hardship; standing watch at freedom's frontier far from loved ones. They have seen the horror of war and catastrophe. Yet they endure, and it is this devotion to duty that gives us strength. It inspires today's military men and women to serve.
Looking out on the world today, we can see how this unbroken line of heroes continues the work of veterans from bygone eras. Today’s armed forces embody the "Spirit of 1776." Now however, instead of militias and the Continental Army of General George Washington protecting this nation, it is a team of National Guardsmen, reservists, and active duty soldiers who help defend our towns and cities. Together with state and local authorities, these modern day patriots form a team that is our nation's first line of defense against terrorists and other threats to our livelihood.
At home and throughout the world, our soldiers uphold the finest traditions of veterans from other bygone eras. In Europe, they continue the legacy begun by the “Doughboys” of World War I, and continued through World War II and the Cold War. Today, as members of the NATO alliance, our soldiers guarantee peace and stability throughout Europe, to include its fledgling democracies in the Balkans.
In Korea, the legacy of veterans who fought for and sustained a fragile peace on the Korean peninsula continues. Nearly half a century after our military led a United Nations force that stopped communist aggression, an unbroken line of American soldiers continues to stand guard for freedom at Korea’s 38th parallel. In that time, we have seen a free and democratic Republic of Korea prosper and the false promises of communism revealed by the impoverishment of North Korea.
In Iraq, our forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom have kept faith with Gulf War veterans. Together with a coalition of many nations, our military ended the repressive regime of a ruthless dictator and freed the people of Iraq from more than 30 years of terror and oppression. Now as the fight for democracy continues, it is our soldiers who help underwrite the transition to a free and democratic Iraq. Currently, U.S. soldiers are serving throughout the world, and the legacy of our veterans continues to inspire each of them to answer the call to duty. So today, when you join me in thanking our veterans for their service, applaud them not only for their past service, but the example they set for our current and future military.
After the Korean War, our veterans returned home to a country that appeared indifferent to their service. After Vietnam, our military faced scorn from some circles. Scorn and indifference have no place in our heroes’ homecoming. Instead, let us show our gratitude by welcoming all our heroes home when they return to the cities and towns they so bravely defended.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil, our military did the job of taking the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that is not enough. We now know our enemies will not be deterred solely by our ability to retaliate. We must be vigilant. We must maintain our indomitable fighting spirit and our values.
Our soldiers, like the veterans who came before them, draw their strength from their values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These values have always been with our troops, and they continue to sustain us. They are embodied by all who have served and continue to serve our nation. Today’s world confronts our soldiers with an enemy that has the same vigor our veterans have always displayed.
The horror of 9/11 demonstrated to many that we cannot take our past peace and prosperity for granted. But, our veterans and our soldiers already knew this. They know our nation was founded not on the guarantees of the past, but the promise of the future. They know that freedom isn’t free and that eternal vigilance is the price we must always pay for our liberty.
What we must resolve now is to keep faith with our veterans and our military as this nation fights and wins the current struggle against terrorism. Let us thank them not only today — Veterans Day — but every day.
Thank you. God Bless you, God bless our soldiers and veterans, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.