Weekly Column

Recent Weekly Columns

For more than two centuries, young Americans have left the comfort and security of
home in order to preserve our freedom and to extend the blessings of freedom to
others. Veterans Day is a solemn anniversary-- a day set aside not to
celebrate victory in a great battle, but to honor the sacrifice that brought
peace. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th
month of 1918 was not marked by the roar of cannon. Rather, it was the
moment the guns were silenced by courage, devotion to duty, and a commitment to
freedom.

 

The virtues that brought about that silence echo through the ages. It is
appropriate that Veterans Day now honors all who have defended our
nation. Whether they serve in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast
Guard, or the Merchant Marine, whether they serve in the regular forces, the
National Guard or the Reserves, they sacrificed much to serve our country.

 

It was my father who taught me to honor our veterans. A World War II veteran,
my father earned his Purple Heart when he was wounded in the Battle of the
Bulge. From my father, I learned that the heroes who wear the uniforms of
America’s armed forces are peace-loving, caring men and women who put aside the
comforts of civilian life to advance the cause of freedom.

 

In this 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War, we
reflect today with reverence upon a generation that served with honor but often
with little thanks. Across Maine and throughout America, we pay tribute to
the nine million men and women who wore our nation’s uniform during the Vietnam
Era, advancing the sacred ideals of liberty and self-determination.

 

All gave some, and some gave all. The names of the more than 58,000 patriots
who gave their lives in Southeast Asia, including 339 from Maine, are forever etched
in black granite on the Vietnam Memorial in our nation’s capital. The
names of the nearly 1,800 Americans who remain unaccounted for, including 14
from Maine, are forever etched in our hearts. None will ever be forgotten.

 

We best honor the fallen and the missing by honoring the veterans with us
today. During my time in the U.S. Senate, I have had the privilege helping
many of these heroes receive the medals and honors that they earned and deserve
but in some cases never received at the time.

 

Ted Smith of Richmond is among those patriots of the Vietnam Era who carried on our
nation’s tradition of advancing the sacred cause of freedom with courage and
devotion. He served two tours of duty with the U.S. Navy’s legendary
Seabees, providing, in the words of Navy Secretary Paul Nitze, “vitally needed
logistic support to growing numbers of United States and Allied military
personnel.”

 

It is an honor to have recently helped Mr. Smith secure the medals and ribbons he
earned through his courageous service. These include the Vietnam Service
Medal with three bronze stars, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Meritorious
Unit Citation for Gallantry ribbon bar from the Republic of Vietnam, among
others. Each symbolizes courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty, and the
gratitude of an entire nation.

 

We are fortunate to live in a state in which so many have served our nation with
honor. This Veterans Day, we should also remember the parents, the wives
and husbands, the children and other loved ones of our veterans and
troops. Their sacrifices are great, and we must thank them as well.

 

The Americans we honor on Veterans Day fought for the security of our nation, and
for benefit of mankind. Those who serve today – the veterans of tomorrow –
carry on this great mission.   They have earned our deepest thanks,
not just on Veterans Day, but for all the days to come.