Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hagel Says Vietnam Wall Teaches Sacrifice, Need for Questioning Policies

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2014 – The Vietnam War Memorial teaches Americans to honor those who sacrificed, but also to be honest and to question the policies that send Americans to war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

Hagel served as an Army sergeant in the 9th Infantry Division during the war and spoke at the Wall today about the meaning of the memorial.

The secretary spoke about his first Veterans Day as a veteran in Omaha, Nebraska. “I’ve always remembered that Veterans Day in 1969, because it reminded me of the one constant throughout the Vietnam War – the uncommon valor of common Americans from every corner of our country,” he said. “They were the quiet heroes of our time. Some of these veterans are here today, and the names of many more are memorialized on the Wall behind us.”

The Wall lists the names of the more than 58,000 Americans killed during the war. Those looking at the names also see the reflections of themselves.

“As it records the names of the past, and reflects our hopes for the future, it also offers a reminder – a message that carries across generations: The Wall reminds us to honor those who defend our country – from making sure they’re treated with the dignity, respect, and appreciation they deserve, to caring for those who return home with visible – and invisible – wounds of war,” Hagel said.

No matter when, where or what war, the United States has “a sacred responsibility” to care for and honor those who sacrificed, the secretary said.

The Wall also reminds Americans to be honest. “There is nothing to be gained by glossing over the darker portions of a war that bitterly divided America,” Hagel said. “We must openly acknowledge past mistakes, and learn from them, because that is how we avoid repeating them.”

The Wall reminds Americans to not take security for granted, and that “we must always question our policies that send our citizens to war, because our nation’s policies must always be worthy of the sacrifices we ask of the men and women who defend our country,” he said.

As secretary, Hagel has a private lunch each month with junior enlisted personnel. “What they tell me – and what every American should know – is that today’s service members don’t want to be glorified or given special treatment,” he said. “The entire 9/11 generation volunteered to serve at a time of war, and they have a strong desire to continue making a difference in the world.”

These men and women want to continue to serve even after leaving the military, he said. “They don’t need a hand-out or a hand-up – they just want the opportunity to continue proving themselves,” Hagel said. “It falls on us to make sure they get that opportunity – the opportunity that too many veterans were denied in the past.”

Hagel called on all Americans to honor veterans by “creating new opportunities for them to contribute after their service in uniform, so they can continue to help make a better world. America is forever grateful for their service to our country.”

A moment of silence

by Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

11/11/2014 - CAMBRIDGE AMERICAN CEMETERY, United Kingdom -- A cold wind swept across the grounds as leaves of red, yellow and orange blew from trees before gently descending on the people gathered in solemn respect at Cambridge American Cemetery, United Kingdom, Nov. 11, 2014.

They stood in silent reverence upon the hallowed ground that served as the final resting place for 3,812 American Service members.

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Forrest Booker, 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron operations superintendent, as his voice broke the silence. "Between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below."

As Booker read the words penned by Canadian military doctor and artillery commander, Maj. John McCrae, nearly a century ago, Service members and civilians who attended this Veterans Day ceremony began shifting their gaze past the podium he stood behind. One by one they focused their attention on the names of fallen brothers and sisters, forever immortalized into the stone wall.

"We gather today to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those memorialized here," said Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 3rd Air Force commander. "Those buried here are remembered in the United States as members of the "Greatest Generation," who ensured freedom's survival through the darkest moments of history."

First proclaimed in 1919 as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson, Veterans Day is also shared in the United Kingdom as Remembrance Day. Initially, it marked the official end of hostilities during World War I; and has since evolved into a time when all Service members are honored for their devotion and sacrifice.

"We are the dead," Booker continued. "Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields."

Now a part of modern-day Belgium, Flanders was the site of some of the most gruesome battles on the Western Front, during World War I. It became the inspiration for the poem Booker read, as well as the brilliant red poppies worn by many who attended the ceremony - including U.S. Visiting Forces Royal Air Force Group Captain Frank Clifford.

"The willingness of our uniformed personnel to continue to serve their country is a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of those who went before them," Clifford said. "When we look at our respective countries at the relative peace and prosperity we enjoy today, this is in no small part due to the bravery of the men and women who were willing to give their lives to protect our way of life."

As the trees swayed and the leaves bristled in the wind, Clifford's words echoed among the tombstones that served as unmoving guardians over fallen heroes; men and women who put aside their fears and personal desires to defend something greater than themselves.

"Take up our quarrel with the foe," Booker said. "To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields."

Unbroken Line of Vets Keeps America Free, Biden Says

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., Nov. 11, 2014 – An unbroken line of veterans has kept the United States and its freedoms safe since the founding of the republic, Vice President Joe Biden said today at America’s most sacred shrine.

Biden thanked veterans and their families for their efforts and sacrifices during Veterans’ Day ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns and the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater.

The vice president placed a wreath at the tomb and delivered remarks to about 2,000 veterans.

“Every single generation of veterans throughout our history has been the best that this country has had to offer,” he said. “It is as true today as it was 200 years ago when a generation of warriors held the ramparts at Fort McHenry against the full might of the British navy in the Battle of Baltimore.”

That battle, the vice president reminded the audience, inspired Francis Scott Key to write what became the U.S. national anthem – The Star-Spangled Banner.

In the song, Key asks the question “does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” and the vice president used that question to illustrate the contributions of veterans through American history.

“Did that star-spangled banner wave in the hands of Civil War Sergeant William Carney, the first African-American Medal of Honor recipient, as he took that banner from a falling comrade and charged the ramparts of Fort Wagner?” he said.

Did it wave, Biden asked, “over observation posts that Medal of Honor Recipient Sergeant Ryan Pitts held against enemy rocket-propelled grenades and machine gunfire in the Kunar Valley in Afghanistan?”

Did it wave, he asked, over five Marines and a Navy corpsman atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima?

“Did that star-spangled banner yet wave over American troops in trenches in Frances, beaches of Normandy, mountains of Korea, jungles of Vietnam, streets of Fallujah and the valleys of Afghanistan?” he asked. “And does that star-spangled banner yet wave over every forward position, ship, base, woman and man deployed in the service of our nation today?”

Generations of veterans have ensured the answer to Key’s question is yes, the vice president said. And this is because “as every adversary in every age who has ever come up against you has learned, American warriors never bend, never break and never, ever, ever yield,” the vice president said. “That’s why, as I tell every foreign leader I encounter, it’s never, never, ever been a good bet to bet against the United States of America, because we have you.”

Secretary Praises, Thanks Veterans, Service Members

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel honored veterans and service members past, present and future in a Veterans Day message released yesterday.

The full text of the message follows:

Veterans Day Message

As Written by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Every year, we set aside Veterans Day to honor all the men and women who’ve served our country in uniform. We celebrate veterans from generations past. We welcome a new generation of veterans home from war. And we thank our future veterans, still serving at home and abroad.

They are securing our nation through their engagement across the globe. Some are in West Africa, contributing to the global effort to stop the spread of Ebola. Some are in the Middle East, working closely with our coalition partners in the fight against ISIL. And some are in Afghanistan, where next month the United States will responsibly end the longest war in our history.

For our troops serving around the world today, and those transitioning out of the military, our obligations are only beginning. Taking care of them, and their families, is a sacred responsibility we must always uphold.

Let’s celebrate them by telling their stories. Let’s help those who need it, while supporting their strength and resilience. And let’s honor our veterans by creating new opportunities for them to contribute after their service, so they can continue making a difference in the world.

To all our veterans – thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for our country. You’re among the best our nation has to offer. God bless you and your families, and happy Veterans Day.