By Jim GaramoneNovember 12, 2008
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., Nov. 11, 2008 - Vice President Richard B. Cheney thanked U.S. veterans of all wars during an annual Veterans Day ceremony here today, and said the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan carry on their legacy of service, bravery and sacrifice.
During his speech, Cheney also remembered a generation of servicemembers who fought "the War to End all Wars."
"This holiday for the nation used to be called Armistice Day, after the document signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, which brought to end the First World War," he said.
"Well, over 4 million Americans served in that conflict, and all of them are now gone, except for one. He's Frank Buckles, of Charles Town, West Virginia, who 90 years ago today was on active duty in the United States Army," Cheney said. "Our last doughboy is nearly 108 years old. And on this Veterans Day, we're thinking of him with the greatest respect and pride."
Buckles is the living connection to a war fought long ago, but Cheney noted there are still thousands of veterans from World War II.
"When that struggle was over, we had turned back dictatorship and militarism across the globe, and former adversaries became friends of the United States," he said.
The vice president also thanked the veterans of the Korean War, the Cold War, Vietnam and the ongoing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Veterans Day finds us once again as a nation at war," Cheney said. "The conflict began with a direct attack on the United States. After seven years, the war goes on, but never again has the battle returned to American soil. We are safer than we were on September 11th. And we remain today, as we have been for 232 years, a free people worthy of our freedom and determined to protect this great nation founded under God."
He said there is no secret behind why America remains a beacon of freedom to the world. Every generation has stepped forward when needed to defend America and its ideals. "Every one of them deserves the thanks and the admiration of our entire country," he said.
By its very nature, military service demands a special kind of sacrifice of those who answer the call. "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," he said.
Military service demands that the nation's needs are always paramount in servicemembers' lives, the vice president said. Families share those burdens and sacrifices as well.
"Military service brings rewards as well," he said. "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."
Cheney said the United States military has been a force for good since the nation's founding.
"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," he said. "That is a legacy to be proud of and those who contributed to it must never be taken for granted."
The country must keep the promises made to America's veterans.
"We must care for those who have been injured in the service of our country," he said. "We must honor and remember those who have died. And we must remember those whose fate is still undetermined."
And veterans still serve. He told a story of a National Guard outfit returning from Iraq. When they landed at 3 a.m. at the airport in Bangor, Maine, the local Veterans' of Foreign Wars were on hand to honor them and get them food, and drinks and cell phones to call home.
"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," Cheney said. "There's 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."
The United States has not changed from the country that liberated Europe more than 60 years ago. America is still an active, hopeful presence in the affairs of mankind, the vice president said.
"In a world of so many perils - from hunger and disease, to political oppression, to the spread of deadly technology - America remains the best hope of those who suffer and live in fear," Cheney said. "Our cause is liberty, justice and peace. And millions breathe free today because of American soldiers who fought and sacrificed for that cause."
Many Americans died for that cause, Cheney said, but many more are still serving. They are "friends, as neighbors and colleagues," he said. "They are America's veterans, and they are still the pride of our nation. They have fought our wars and defended our shores and kept us free. May God keep us ever grateful for their service."