November 11, 2001
Arlington National Cemetary
Remarks by the Vice President at Veterans Day Ceremony
Secretary Principi, Secretary Martinez and Mineta, General Myers, General Jones, members of the Armed Forces, veterans, fellow Americans: Thank you. I am honored to join you in this tribute to America's veterans.
Since the founding of our country, some 48 million men and women have served in the United States military. Roughly half of them are alive today. And among our 25 million living veterans are more than two thousand who were on active duty on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918. Every veteran has contributed to this nation and to the advance of human freedom. Every veteran has earned this nation's permanent gratitude.
In this national cemetery are the graves of many thousands of our veterans. Some were given long and illustrious lives - like General John J. Pershing, General of the Armies of the United States ... or the three five-star generals buried here ... or the Navy admiral who served more than 63 years. Here, too, are many thousands who never lived to be called veterans - from our Civil War, to the attack on the Pentagon two months ago today. On Veterans Day, we remember the fallen, and we show our respect to those still among us - the veterans we know as our friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues.
For one man, a veteran named George Glick, this day is a reminder of World War Two, when he served as a combat infantryman with the Army's Forty-fifth Division. He remembers lying face down in a trench under heavy fire, and realizing that it was Armistice Day. He thought to himself, "If I get out of this alive, anytime in the future, if it gets tough, I am going to remember November eleventh, 1944." He has called that experience a guiding star in his life - the one moment that puts all others in perspective.
Not every veteran has known the full fury of battle. But most count their time in uniform among the defining experiences of their lives. The military drew out the best that was in them, instilling the highest standards of diligence, discipline, and loyalty. That is a bond joining every veteran from every branch of the service. Whether drafted or enlisted, commissioned or non-commissioned, each took an oath, lived by a code, and stood ready to fight and die for their country.
In recognizing the service of a veteran, the government uses the words, "selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States of America." It is a grand phrase, and entirely true. The military life is built around sacrifice and complete devotion to America. If you have lived that life, then you know the meaning of commitment to a greater cause. And if you have worked, as I have, with the men and women of our military, you know there is nothing they would not give to protect the people of this country.
In so many ways, the life we live today has been shaped by our veterans, especially the men and women of World War Two. The daughter of an Army Air Corpsman describes growing up with her father, and the values she learned from him without even knowing it. As she recalls, "Honesty, integrity, hard work, personal responsibility, and perseverance were all around me and I absorbed them almost imperceptibly." Her parents' generation had a similar effect on the entire nation. And our sense of gratitude to that generation only deepens with the years.
We have also come to appreciate more than ever the veterans of Korea and Vietnam. They endured the worst that war can bring - massive casualties, merciless enemies, and brutal captivity. For some, the nation's gratitude seemed long in coming. Yet today, each one can know that his sacrifice is appreciated, and his courage is honored.
More than a generation has passed since the war ended in Vietnam. Since that time - even since the war in the Persian Gulf - the technology of warfare has become far more complex and sophisticated. Yet our most basic military asset has not changed at all. It is the character, the daring, and the resourcefulness of those who do the fighting.
No matter how complicated war might be, it always comes down to the ones who fly the planes, man the ships, and carry the rifles. And our country's military has left a legacy like no other fighting force ever assembled. The uniform they wear, and the flag they carry, are held in esteem wherever they have served. And that is their finest tribute: Across the world, to people who struggle and suffer, the sight of an American in uniform has meant hope, relief, and deliverance.
Now Americans must fight again. In this new century, war has come to us. The terrorists who attacked this country have declared themselves the mortal enemies of the United States, and will be dealt with as such. Americans have no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead. We cannot predict the length or the course of the conflict. But we know with absolute certainty that this nation will persevere, and we will prevail.
This Veterans Day finds America resolute, united, and well led. We have a President with strong character and clarity of purpose ... a commander in chief every soldier and every veteran can be proud of.
The men and women who serve today can know that they have the complete confidence of the commander in chief, and the respect of the entire nation. They know, too, that they follow a long, unbroken line of brave Americans who came to the defense of freedom. The veterans who once followed that line now inspire the new generation of freedom's defenders. For that, we honor all veterans today. And it is my privilege, on behalf of the President and the people of the United States of America, to thank them all.