Tags: Veterans | Day | Speech

Veterans Day Speech

Sunday, 10 November 2002 12:00 AM

It is very humbling, as one who has never served in the military, to be afforded the opportunity to speak on Veterans Day.

Looking around this audience, being in the company of soldiers who have at one time subordinated their own personal interests to the life-threatening responsibility of wearing the uniform, serving their country.

Saying goodbye to family.

Being in harm's way.

Not knowing when, or if, you're coming home.

Veterans Day gives us all a chance to say thank you. To pause in our busy lives and recognize the sacrifice someone else has made so that we can be free to move about in this wonderful country and do whatever we want.

From the bottom of my heart: Thank you.

Today, with soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and other foreign staging areas, those stateside preparing for war in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of others serving in support, it strikes me how easy it is for the average American to take entirely for granted the magnitude of sacrifice our military makes to secure our way of life.

On college campuses at this very moment, young men and women protest the U.S. military action in Afghanistan. Do these students realize just who it is that has protected and defended their ability to speak freely against their government? Perhaps they do.

Many people are more concerned with Wall Street than with the fact that disabled veterans do not receive adequate medical treatment. And people are entirely at liberty to do so. After all, this is a free country.

A free country.

But in many ways, it is a selfish country, one where wealth and abundance are considered a birthright.

Did you know that there are now 2.3 million disabled veterans in the U.S.?

2.3 million soldiers who have sacrificed health, their limbs and mental well-being for all of us. Yet veterans are not very high in the priorities of government or in the eyes of the public.

You have a chance to change that. Whenever you see a veteran outside a store with Buddy Poppies, consider this: VFW Buddy Poppies are assembled by disabled, needy and aging veterans in VA hospitals across the country.

The majority of proceeds derived from each sale conducted by VFW posts and their Ladies Auxiliaries are retained locally to provide for veteran services and welfare.

These contributions are crucial to helping our needy veterans, people who have given all of us freedoms that are not free.

Buddy Poppies are small, red artificial flowers symbolic of Americans who were killed in World War I. An American cemetery at Flanders Field, Belgium, holds the remains of 368 of these soldiers. The poppy motif comes from the poem "In Flanders Fields," written by a Canadian officer.

Here are the first two verses:

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We all prefer peace.

This past week I read a very touching letter from an anonymous woman who wrote about her husband, a man who served his country in Vietnam. Her letter is titled: "An Ann Margaret Story for Veterans."

Not everyone had the fortune – or misfortune, depending on how you look at it – to serve in Vietnam. But when we hear stories like this, it makes us feel a lot better. Here is what she said:

A few years ago, Ann Margaret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to sign the treasured photo, so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o'clock for the 7:30 p.m. signing.

When he got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage.

Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.

Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GIs so far from home. Ann Margaret came out looking as beautiful as ever.

As second in line, it was soon Richard's turn. He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo. When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she should not sign it.

Richard said, "I understand. I just wanted her to see it. She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, 'This is one of my gentlemen from Vietnam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for "my gentlemen."'"

With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him.

She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them. There weren't too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. She then posed for pictures and acted as if he was the only one there.

Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet. When I asked if he'd like to talk about it, my big strong husband broke down in tears. "That's the first time anyone ever thanked me for my time in the Army," he said. Richard, like many others, came home to people who spit on him and shouted ugly things at him.

That night was a turning point for him. He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet. I'll never forget Ann Margaret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.

I now make it a point to say Thank You to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces. Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.

American have always had heroes.

That's just the way we are.

Today you are surrounded by them, veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Before you leave today, please do me a favor.

Walk up to an American hero and thank them for their sacrifice and their service.

Thank you, American veterans.

And may God Bless America!

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It is very humbling, as one who has never served in the military, to be afforded the opportunity to speak on Veterans Day. Looking around this audience, being in the company of soldiers who have at one time subordinated their own personal interests to the...
Sunday, 10 November 2002 12:00 AM
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