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 acknowledge how much we appreciate the men and women that have freely offered to serve this country we all love.
Another year has come and gone since we last gathered on a crisp morning by our beautiful monument. The hours, days, weeks and months have been spent according to the demands of our daily lives – at work or at the doctor’s office, at a school function or social event, behind the wheel of our car or at the kitchen stove. Every day, we wake, dress, eat and blessedly sleep at day’s end. The seasons fall away from us like the leaves from these trees. We strive for financial stability, independence, and accomplishments both great and small. We engage with loved ones and peers in ways that are both mundane and incredibly poignant. We are afforded all of these instances of being because we live in a time of relative peace and some prosperity.
For the most part, we will finish this day fed and in our own bed, with a roof over our head and an opportunity to tackle tomorrow’s challenges as a new sun rises.
We are blessed.
This is the truth of our experience as civilians of a great and powerful nation – a country of promise – a country that has been heavily involved in wars and conflicts over its two hundred years of history. We have a way of living that is the pinnacle of comfort for others around the world.
Yes, we are blessed.
We are blessed because we have had the good fortune to have young men and women that have chosen to serve in the military, to defend our freedoms and provide us this unrivaled way of life that we have all benefited from.
Thank you, you men and women of the military, that have served us so well.
In thinking about this speech today, I was struck by the many reasons a young man or woman may choose this line of endeavor, to put aside the familiar and take up the mantle of a military uniform.
In times of peace, one can see the wonderful opportunities the military provides. They will leave high school and go off to boot camp, wet behind the ears, to find structure, purpose, schooling, travel, and a career. They will make friendships and associations that will survive a lifetime of what life will throw at them, and most of these bonds will outlast some jobs and marriages. It’s understandable why someone would choose this path.
It is so compelling that young people choose this endeavor in times of strife, yet again and again, the honorable call to action is bravely taken up. As long as men have gathered in villages to live communally, they have also stood together against oppression and fear. I am a child of the 60’s. I watched my grandparents and parents talk of the world wars, my father and uncle talk of the Korean War that left my uncle deaf in one ear and my father resolutely mute about his time of service, and saw kids from my neighborhood sent off to Vietnam.
I was too young then to understand the enormity of what they and the many families across this nation had experienced.
These young people, the kids we nursed, immunized, provided music lessons to and carted around to sporting events, left high school, still wet behind the ears, blew through boot camp and were deployed around the world to situations unlike any they had known before. After such a short time, our young recruits were charging the beach at Normandy, stumbling through cold, rough waters, an air assault and a barrage of bullets that would take 120,000 allied lives.
Still green, they were deployed to the hot, humid and hostile jungles of Vietnam to walk waste deep in water, guns held over their heads, trying to avoid snakes, trip wires, gun fire and the relentless fear that has stayed with many for decades.
Still wet behind the ears, our boys and girls have been sent in heavy fatigues to the arid deserts of the middle east to track tyranny in the monotonous blowing sands and stinging heat that often soars well over 100 degrees, also fearing the anonymous attacks of guerilla warfare and land mines, only this time they face an enemy willing to strap a bomb to his or her chest and take out an entire section of city street.
With the advancements made in medical technologies, soldiers return with disabilities that they surely would not have survived in the past. Loss of limbs, head injuries and trauma are far too commonly born by our returning heroes. These young men and women have served us too well to be forgotten. We, the great nation that has been afforded so much in the way of serenity, have a responsibility to provide the ongoing support necessary to ensure that they may live lives that are full and fulfilled, as safe and stable and comfortable as any of us have come to expect. We must ensure that veterans are provided education and vocational opportunities, and jobs. We must ensure that no veteran goes homeless or without the medical provisions that will help them flourish once again.
To those of you that stand with us today as veterans, and those of you still in active service, I cannot understand the depth of your experience as soldiers but can, with great certainty, tell you that we people of this small community of Amsterdam are completely grateful for the gift of your time, talent, youth and commitment.
I’d like share the words of a mayor in another like community, Mayor Debbie Brinkman of Littleton, Colorado. We share her sentiment and gratitude:
“Since World War I, the United States of America’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have fought in ten battles:
• World War II
• Korean War
• Vietnam War
• Bay of Pigs
• Invasion of Panama
• The Persian Gulf
• Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Invasion of Afghanistan, and the
• Invasion of Iraq
We open our arms and our hearts and welcome them all home. They did not all come home alive, they did not all come home whole, many are not yet home, and we continue to send many back into harm’s way. The enormity of their sacrifice is beyond compare. So how do we dare to believe two words, eight letters is enough?
John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
So, it isn’t enough to say it – we need to be it. Grateful. Thankful. Appreciative. The greatest prayer you can say is “Thank You.” Two words. Eight letters. But weighted with love, gratitude, humility and understanding.”
So, to each veteran that stands here today, under this 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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