Veterans Day 2008 Arlington National Cemetery


October 31, 2008A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

On Veterans Day, we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men and women who in defense of our freedom have bravely worn the uniform of the United States.

From the fields and forests of war-torn Europe to the jungles of Southeast Asia, from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, brave patriots have protected our Nation's ideals, rescued millions from tyranny, and helped spread freedom around the globe. America's veterans answered the call when asked to protect our Nation from some of the most brutal and ruthless tyrants, terrorists, and militaries the world has ever known. They stood tall in the face of grave danger and enabled our Nation to become the greatest force for freedom in human history. Members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have answered a high calling to serve and have helped secure America at every turn.

Our country is forever indebted to our veterans for their quiet courage and exemplary service. We also remember and honor those who laid down their lives in freedom's defense. These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit. On Veterans Day, we remember these heroes for their valor, their loyalty, and their dedication. Their selfless sacrifices continue to inspire us today as we work to advance peace and extend freedom around the world.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service members have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor America's veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2008, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 9 through November 15, 2008, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Vice President Chaney's Remarks at the Veterans Day Wreath Laying Ceremony
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
November 11, 2008THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much Secretary Peake; members of Congress; leaders of Veterans Service Organizations; members of the official delegation from Iraq and other distinguished guests; military families; fellow citizens. Thank you all for the welcome, and good morning to you all. I'm grateful for the honor of participating in this important ceremony. Let me give a special word of thanks to the Color Guard, to the U.S. Army Band, and to active duty personnel gathered here at Arlington. It's a privilege to be with all of you, and I bring good wishes from the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

Just a few moments ago, on the President's behalf, I presented a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Standing watch today, as always, are the Tomb guards of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment. The careful rituals of the Old Guard have made it one of the legendary units of the United States Army. Their vigil goes on without fail, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It's a high honor for anyone to be selected as a Tomb guard, and I want to commend these fine American soldiers for carrying out their duty with great skill and dignity.

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 an end the First World War. Well over four million Americans served in that conflict, and all of them are now gone except for one. He is Frank Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, who 90 years ago today was on active duty in the United States Army. Our last Doughboy is nearly 108 years old, and on this Veterans Day thinking of him with the greatest respect and pride.

Corporal Buckles is a living connection to a war fought long ago, to a time when America deployed a great Army to oppose the enemies of freedom. Only 23 years after the Armistice, our nation was called to another difficult global task in the biggest war we have ever had to fight. When that struggle was over, we had turned back dictatorship and militarism across the globe, and former adversaries became friends of the United States. The Second World War ended more than 60 years ago, yet many Americans still remember it well. And we're pleased to be joined in the amphitheater today by veterans of World War II.

Also present are military veterans from the eras of the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the ongoing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. We welcome all of you, and we thank you for your service and for being here with us today.

Veterans Day finds us, once again, as a nation at war. 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. (Applause.) 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.

There is no mystery behind the endurance and the success of American liberty. It is because in every generation, from the Revolutionary period to this very hour, brave Americans have stepped forward and served honorably in the Armed Forces of the United States. Every one of them deserves the thanks and the admiration of our entire country.

Military service demands a special kind of sacrifice. 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. For the time you spend in uniform, the interests of the nation must always come first. And those duties are shared by family members who make many sacrifices of their own, face separation during deployments and sometimes bear extreme and permanent loss.

Military service brings rewards as well. 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. 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.

That is a legacy to be proud of, and those who contributed to it must never be taken for granted. To honor our veterans, we must keep the promises we have made to them. We must care for those who have been injured in the service of our country. We must honor and remember those who have died. And we must remember those whose fate is still undetermined. We fly the POW flag on Veterans Day for a reason: This nation will not relent until we have accounted for every last one of our missing Americans.

Not long ago I read the recollections of a soldier whose National Guard unit returned home after a lengthy tour of duty in Iraq. Delays and disruptions made their journey far longer than expected. The young man and his comrades finally landed at the airport in Bangor, Maine, 36 hours late; it was three o'clock in the morning. Like everyone else on the aircraft, this soldier was tired, hungry and frustrated. But, he said, “As I walked off the plane, I was taken aback; in the small, dimly lit airport, a group of elderly veterans were there waiting for us, lined up one by one to shake our hands. Some were standing, others confined to wheelchairs, and all of them wore their uniform hats. Their now-feeble right hands stiffened in salute, and their left hands held coffee, snacks and cell phones for us. As I made my way through the line, each man thanking me for my service, I choked back tears. We later learned that this VFW group had waited for more than a day in the airport for our arrival.”

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. There is 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 first hand that our world is a much better place because of the power, the influence, and the values of the United States.

Before I close with another story, I want to recognize the contribution of the Navy band here with us here today, and for their participation in these ceremonies.

Recently, at the White House, the following story was told. It happened in Italy, in a time not too long after the end of the Second World War. A father wanted to encourage his young son to do well in school. After the boy got good grades, his dad took him on a journey to Rome. Near the end of their vacation the father said, “Now we'll have the most important day. I'm going to take you to a sacred place.” He brought the boy to the military cemetery at Anzio, the final resting place of nearly 8,000 American servicemen.

As they stood there among the rows of crosses, the father turned to his son and said, “Read those names and read those birth and death dates. These are young people, young soldiers who crossed the ocean and came here, and made the extreme last sacrifice to give you freedom and dignity. You owe them everything that is good in your life today. You have to swear here today that you will never, ever forget that you owe them everything you have, and you will always be grateful to their country and to them for what they gave you.”

This is a story told by Silvio Berlusconi, now the Prime Minister of Italy, and the boy in the story is him. All his life he kept his promise to his father, and last month at the White House, he expressed his nation's continuing gratitude to the people of United States.

The America that liberated Europe six decades ago is still an active, hopeful presence in the affairs of mankind. 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. Our cause is liberty, justice, and peace, and millions breathe free today because of American soldiers who fought and sacrificed for that cause.

Many of those heroes rest in places like Anzio and Arlington. Yet so many of them are still with us as friends, as neighbours and colleagues. They are America's veterans, and they are still the pride of our nation. They have fought our wars, defended our shores and kept us free. May God keep us ever grateful for their service.

Thank you very much.

Soldiers stand guard while colors are presented in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2008
Veterans Day
A Marine honor guard flanks the Tomb of the Unknowns during a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Veterans Day
During a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, veterans gather at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Robert Gates
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stands during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, November 11, 2008
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney places a wreath in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery November 11, 2008
Two girls watch the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2008. Today marks the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I and is in honor of all military veterans.
Soldiers stand guard while colors are presented in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery November 11, 2008.
US Vice President Dick Cheney (L) speaks as actress Bo Derek, the mistress of ceremonies, looks on during Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery
Sergeant Travis Baker (L) and Specialist Derek Lorenz of the Ceremonial Old Guard, Alpha Company, dressed in WWI uniforms, participate as wreath bearers over the grave of US Army General John J. Pershing on Novermber 10, 2008, during a ceremony for the 116,516 Americans who died in WWI on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the end of the war at Arlington National Cemetery
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney attends the Veterans Day National Ceremony at the Arlington National Ceremony November 11, 2008
Florence Palko, standing next to her son Gary, pays tribute to her husband Walter Palko who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day in Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2008. Florence shares her birthday with the national holiday and took the day to remember her husband who was a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars
Retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dwight Peeler salutes during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery November 11, 2008

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