We meet today amidst the remains and memories of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We owe them nothing less than total respect and gratitude on every day of every year.
And then there are the 20 million veterans, some in the second century of their lives and others not having yet reached their 21st year. 2 million of our veterans bear the wounds of war often so very recognizable and often out of sight. We owe each of them that same respect and gratitude we express today as a year-round mind-set and as a mandate in our souls. Our obligation is to be active agents of admiration, bastions of support and champions of CARE.
There can be no equation, no budget, no explanation and no excuse for denying any of our heroes the respect, the treatment, the training, the education, the housing, the jobs and the passionate commitment to be there for them. The father of our country, George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
We have suffered another tragedy in our community and it has moved the nation.
Clearly, it proves that whatever sense of success we may have, there is always more to be done. I have had the privilege of wearing the uniform of our country. I have welcomed many back home but also closed too many body bags.
For three decades, we have watched the phones in our office….hoping the next call would be routine…a need for information…something safe and not the other kind. 4,000 times this past year, it was the other kind. The caller was desperate, sliding toward tragedy and threatening to end it all and perhaps harm others. I thank God we have helped save many by having veteran trained counselors have a dialogue with them, bring them to a place of some peace and ready for some help. But, we must do more. All of us must do more.
I thank all here today who have served, for their service…I thank all here today who support and sustain our veterans for their devotion. For those whose loved ones are here in their final resting place, we share your grief and your pride.
Thank you. God bless you all and our country.