Good Morning. I’d like to thank the Veteran’s Commission for once again allowing me the honor to speak on behalf of our city; to once again memorialize how much we appreciate the men and women that have given so freely of their lives to serve this country we all love.
For the many years I have been afforded this opportunity, I have always been struck by the very intimate nature of this sacrifice. Young men and women leave kitchen tables and warm beds, jobs, boyfriends, wives, mothers and children to enter the military. It is an unimaginably poignant choice to make, and I have always understood this decision with sympathy from the perspective of a civilian.
But I cannot begin to understand the depth of this decision, as I have not the experience or knowledge of a veteran.
I cannot ever know what a soldier knows.
I cannot know the weight and force of the resolution to serve – to leave family and community for a higher purpose. A soldier sacrifices comfort, safety and autonomy for the comfort, safety and freedom of those they love and those in need.
A soldier must, with faith and willingness, turn one’s life completely over to others. One must commit, must train, and must learn to march in unison with precision, each thundering step a testament to tenacity.
A soldier may be deployed in times of peace or times of war to any corner of the world and must bear up under merciless conditions, which are sometimes as routine as loneliness or boredom, but sometimes so unbearably painful they leave permanent mental or physical scarring.
Soldiers know heat, humidity, cold, separation, stress and fear. More than that, they know faith and courage. They know the close relationship that humility has with pride.
A soldier must be able to take orders and give one’s undivided effort to see that they are executed, as an essential member of a squad, platoon, company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division and corps. Our soldiers make up the greatest military in the world and know, in the fullest sense, dignity and camaraderie.
Soldiers know complete and selfless devotion. They will shelter, support, or fall for the soldier standing next to them, in front of them, or behind.
Becoming a soldier, being a soldier, being a veteran is not merely a decision; it is a calling. It is the response of a special few that have answered in the affirmative – that they would become the caretakers of this nation’s defense and ensure the continued quality of life we enjoy on these quiet streets of manicured lawns, simple gardens, and homes of wood and brick. These special few know the ultimate cost of their gift of love and commitment to our community.
The men and women that stand among us today as veterans have proudly given years of their lives for our way of life and the beautiful flag that marks our destiny.
The words of General Douglas MacArthur are particularly fitting in this regard:
“The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training – sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes, which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image… However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for country is the noblest development of mankind.”
The truth of these words is evidenced as communities across the nation commemorate the selfless generosity of our men and women in uniform.
Today, on Veteran’s Day, we celebrate the extraordinary offering you have given to each of us. We mark your time and efforts with words, spectacle and memorials, but can never thank you enough for knowingly surrendering the innocence of your youth that we may pass our days protected from aggression and treachery.
To each veteran that stands here today, under the heavy sky and waving flag, our words are not enough.
Know, as only a soldier can know, that you have our deepest respect, gratitude and love.
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