Friends and neighbors,
I wanted to share with you my comments on Veterans Day. I hope you have a chance to thank a veteran today, and honor their courage and sacrifice in defense of our nation.
Veterans Day 2014 finds us fighting an enemy that wants to destroy the freedoms for which our soldiers have preserved time and time again. We are today as we have been for 238 years: A free people, worthy of our freedom, and determined to protect this great nation founded under God. But we must remain vigilant.
There is no mystery behind the endurance and the success of American liberty. It is because in every generation, from the Revolutionary period to this very hour, brave Americans have stepped forward and served honorably in the Armed Forces of the United States. Every one of them deserves the thanks and the admiration of our entire country.
Military service demands a special kind of sacrifice. The places where you live and serve, the risk you face, the people you deal with every day—all of these are usually decided by someone else. For the time you spend in uniform, the interests of the nation must always come first. And those duties are shared by family members who make many sacrifices of their own, face separation during deployments and sometimes bear extreme and permanent loss.
Military service brings rewards as well. There is the pride of developing one's character and becoming a leader, serving a cause far greater than any self-interest and knowing that our nation's cause is the hope of the world. Every man and woman who wears America's uniform is part of a long, unbroken line of achievement and honor. No single military power in history has done greater good, shown greater courage, liberated more people, or upheld higher standards of decency and valor than the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
That is a legacy to be proud of, and those who contributed to it must never be taken for granted. To honor our veterans, we must keep the promises we have made to them. We must care for those who have been injured in the service of our country. We must honor and remember those who have died. And we must remember those whose fate is still undetermined. We fly the POW flag on Veterans Day for a reason: This nation will not relent until we have accounted for every last one of our missing Americans.
Not long ago I read the recollections of a soldier whose National Guard unit returned home after a lengthy tour of duty in Iraq. Delays and disruptions made their journey far longer than expected. The young man and his comrades finally landed at the airport in Bangor, Maine, 36 hours late; it was three o'clock in the morning. Like everyone else on the aircraft, this soldier was tired, hungry and frustrated. But, he said, "As I walked off the plane, I was taken aback; in the small, dimly lit airport, a group of elderly veterans were there waiting for us, lined up one by one to shake our hands. Some were standing, others confined to wheelchairs, and all of them wore their uniform hats. Their now-feeble right hands stiffened in salute, and their left hands held coffee, snacks and cell phones for us. As I made my way through the line, each man thanking me for my service, I choked back tears. We later learned that this VFW group had waited for more than a day in the airport for our arrival."
In scenes like this, which have been repeated so many times in recent years, we see the best in the character of America's veterans. There is a unique fellowship among them, and they never forget the Americans who have followed their example and now serve on active duty. They love their country. They believe in its cause. And they know firsthand that our world is a much better place because of the power, the influence, and the values of the United States.
May God bless each of you and may God bless America.