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Axar.az presents an article "My Veterans Day Speech" by John Samuel Tieman.
When I returned home from Vietnam in 1970, when I was that angry hippie, there were a lot of things I thought about my future. One of them was not that some fifty years later I would be that old man giving the Veterans Day speech in the park. Yet there I was, the keynote speaker on November the 11th at 11 AM. Along with others, I was one of the organizers of this event.
We gathered for a rededication ceremony of the Veterans Memorial Fountain at Heman Park in my home, University City, an inner ring suburb of St. Louis. The ceremony began with the posting of the colors, the national anthem, a prayer, and remarks by our city manager and our mayor. Then me. I began with prefatory remarks, in which I thanked the mayor, our city manager, members of the city council, and other distinguished guests for being here. I asked all veterans of the Armed Forces to rise for a moment of recognition.
Then, my keynote address.
Who are we, these veterans who gather here? Politically, our veterans represent every major party, smaller third parties, folks on the left, right, center, and plenty of independents. Male and female, our veterans are of all races and religions. Some volunteered. Some were drafted. Some were officers, and some served as enlisted personnel. Some liked the service. Some couldn't wait to get discharged. Some saw war. And, to borrow from the Renaissance poet, John Milton, some others “also serve who stand and wait.”
With such diversity, it is fair to ask – What binds us? Every veteran has had this experience. You are at a party perhaps, or perhaps a church, synagogue, mosque, or maybe you're at the store, the barbershop, the hair salon. You hear someone you don't even know, say, “Yeah, I'm a veteran.” You respond, “Oh, I'm a vet also!” There's that bond. Whatever the differences – gender, race, religion, politics, age, gay or straight – whatever the other differences, there's that bond.
What is that bond? Part of it is that military service can assist one's development as a citizen and as a person. Some have taken advantage of the wide variety of benefits offered to veterans. Some became educated. Some bought homes. Some used V. A. medical care. Beyond these specifics, our military service heightens every veteran's sense of what it means to be a citizen, what it means to fulfill a duty. For once we answered the call of the bugle.
“Duty” is not a word we hear much these days, but it has much meaning to veterans. Why? At some point in your life, your country asked, “Who will stand guard tonight while your neighbor rests?” And you answered, “I will.” Your country asked, “Who will go into battle, that your neighbor may live in peace?” And you answered, “I will.” And, ultimately, your nation asked, “Will you sacrifice life and limb?” You answered, “I will.”
Veterans Day, this day, is for all who served in the Armed Forces. Memorial Day is for those who gave their lives in the service of their country. We're not here to glorify war. Many of us hate war as only those who have seen war can hate war. Today, we honor all veterans. That said, we are remiss if we do not take a moment to pay homage to those who gave “the last full measure of devotion.” As the modern poet, Laurence Binyon, wrote of those lost in World War I – “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: / Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning / We will remember them.”
The other thing that binds veterans is the certain knowledge, to borrow that old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
But we did come home. And we gathered here, beside this lovely fountain, on this lovely day, in a park of this city we love, University City. We live in a republic. We live in a democracy. And we are free. We are here to rededicate this fountain – to you, to our veterans. But in a broader sense, your neighbours ask that I speak for them, that I say to you, my fellow veterans, this one simple thing. Thank you. Thank you on behalf of your neighbours. Thank you.
2023.11.13 / 09:36
John Samuel Tieman