Excerpts from the address given by Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz
at the 6th Annual University of New Haven Veterans Day Celebration
November 12, 2007
Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz
Commissioner of Veteran Affairs
State of Connecticut
Throughout America's history, war and revolution have been major forces in shaping our traditions, national identity and standing in the international community. America has officially been engaged in war for 136 of the 231 years since the Declaration of Independence.
In that time 43 million have served in the Armed Forces of the United States and 683,000 have died defending this nation.
We still have 310,000 living veterans of military service in this state. More than 52,000 Connecticut veterans have become ill, injured or disabled in the line of duty. And the count continues with Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism.
Each and every one of these veterans and their families made great sacrifices to preserve, protect and defend this Nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. As we gather this Veterans Day 2007 we are reminded that those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who stood with them to defend out liberties are a reminder that our Nation has been blessed with generation upon generation of Americans who have always answered the call to serve the cause of peace and freedom here in America and around the globe.
Each generations continuing the unbroken tradition and legacy of Duty, Honor, Country that spans hundreds of years from the founding of The Nation to this very day. On battlefields and engagements in places long forgotten or only noted in history books Americans have struggled against great odds, primitive conditions and the gut wrenching terror of battle. With their sacrifices they have paid for each and every line of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
Our country is the "Sweet land of Liberty" because each generation has protected and defended with their very lives the civil liberties we all enjoy. America has remained the land of the free because we are the Home of the Brave.
Like a rich tapestry of woven with the finest traditions of all we hold dear, their sacrifice, courage and determination are a legacy which must be preserved protected and cherished and passed on as the treasures they are. The story has not ended nor is the duty to be set aside. For us, the living, the duty to preserve the legacy of generation of veterans remains.
We all must dedicate ourselves both to their memory and their unrelenting devotion to duty. We are entrusted with enriching their legacy. It is for us the living to give meaning to their sacrifices.
The voices of these honored veterans seem to say:
Though you may never know our names, remember we gave our most precious possession...our lives. From the valleys of Connecticut to the Deserts of Iraq, we stood not for self but for country.
When you are too tired to go to the polls to vote, remember we served to give you that right.
When you are afraid to raise your voice at injustice, Remember we sacrificed and fought to assure your freedom of speech.
When you see that truth has become a casualty of time, remember we endured great hardships to assure that truth continued to make America free.
When you see oppression and intolerance, remember we stood strong to assure liberty and justice for all.
With the battles raging so far from our shores, with the deployments and rotations of our troops so scattered in everyday life it is so easy to forget our troops fighting today.
Recently a reporter asked an Air Force General, who happened to also be a woman, what she thought about the fact that so many women were serving, coming home maimed and dead (we have lost 102 women during this conflict). Her answer so clearly exemplifies the legacy of what America's veterans have stood for.
She said that Americans, men and women, will always protect the weak and the innocent.
That is what Americans have always done: protected the weak and the innocent from disasters, inhumanity to the peoples of the earth, and in the service of peace.
So too, on this Veterans Day, let us remember those gentle heroes of the past and present American Anthem:
"Let them say of me, I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings I received.
Let me know in my heart when all my days are through,
America, America I have my best to you!"