Veterans Day is dedicated to all military service personnel who have worn our country's colors while defending our nation. Since our Declaration of Independence, 42 million Americans have claimed the honor of having served the nation in its military forces. Since that time, more than a million have lost their lives for our colors, with millions more wounded. Since George Washington first took command of the Continentals besieging Boston, America's warriors have stepped forward and endured horrors unimaginable to most Americans, and saw it all with their young eyes, so those safe at home would never have to.
From the beginning of our American history, our men survived at Valley Forge. They sailed aboard our ships and quelled uprisings on foreign shores and repelled pirate attacks. They fought in the trenches in France during World War I. They stormed the beaches in Normandy, Tarawa and Iwo Jima. They were crewmen aboard our Navy ships and submarines in World War II under threat of enemy submarine and kamikaze attacks. They were members of flight crews in our aviation units aboard our fighters and bombers subject to anti-aircraft fire and enemy fighters. Coast Guardsmen crewed our Navy ships as the Navy did not have enough crews to man them. Our men fought in temperatures 70 below zero at the Chosen Reservoir in Korea. They survived the "Tet Offensive" in Vietnam and captured Baghdad. They fought the Taliban in Afghanistan. The danger they faced in each situation was often horrific.
Our American forces have made an enormous sacrifice in defending our country. They have done more than talk the talk, they have walked the walk and left footprints on every continent. These footprints eventfully fade away but the deeds they accomplished remain chiseled in stone. They fought in places where we have a hard time pronouncing the names. School teachers could use these names and make a history course for their students.
With all this service and loss of life, we as Americans can be proud of the kind of people we are today, free and increasingly prosperous because America took a stand; but it has always fallen on the backs of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who never wavered and served without personal gain. We were surrounded by men, real men, who had gladly worn the country's cloth in wars against fascism and communism. Our servicemen carried our nation's colors on countless humanitarian missions around the world. Yet still, for whatever reason, they come even though there is great pressure from our society to sit it out and not get involved.
Every day, and particularly on this historic day, we should honor the men and women in uniform who serve our country and protect our freedom. They carry our nation's colors to the dangerous corners of the world, and we must remember that for every person who is in uniform, there are families who wait for them to come home safely. Just as they have stood tall for our country, we must always stand by and support the men and women in uniform and their families.
The markers over the graves of those who gave their lives and all the veterans dying daily serve as silent sentinels and we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to them. Our veterans agreed to keep faith with us; this Veterans Day let us acknowledge that debt and keep faith with them. Let us pay homage to all our veterans and especially to these area servicemen who allowed us to live in freedom and sleep peaceful at night. They lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved.
Let us remember our own who died in the service of their country: James Antolini, Randall Arbogast, Dennis Baxter, Gary Burgess, Tex Patrick, Roger Griffith, Thomas Hess, Bernard Jones, Fred Kerns, Cecil Kittle Jr., Steven Mollohan, Garry Shannon, David Shiflett, Robert Simmons, Samuel Summerfield, Russell Taylor and Robert Thompson, all killed in Vietnam; Lance Cpl. David Cosner, killed in the Beirut bombing; BT2 Mark Hutchison, killed on board USS Iwo Jima in the Middle East; Sgt. R.J. Jimenez and Navy Corpsman Matthew G. Conte, killed in Iraq.