Given at Lee Middle & High School:
Thank you, Mrs. Curry, and let me thank everyone here for pausing briefly this morning to honor veterans worldwide, past, present, and future. The very fact that you have taken time on this day to reflect on the meaning of their service to duty, honor, and country means a lot to those who have chosen to wear the uniform and defend our freedom.
We all have differing opinions of war but what we do agree on is that without the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines — and certainly let me not forget their families — we might not be sitting here today, enjoying the benefits of a public education, freedom to explore controversial issues, voicing our opinions, and taking stands against those views we might feel are immoral, unjust and unfair. Instead, we could very well find ourselves living in a land that restricts our travel, that blocks our ability to communicate via the Internet, that punishes ordinary speech, that uses the military to suppress our liberties, and that prohibits our fundamental right to speak out and redress our grievances to those government officials we elect to represent us.
But no, thankfully that’s not the way it is in America. We are the land of the FREE because we are the home of the BRAVE. And each morning, hundreds of thousands of men and women get out of bed, put on the uniform, and prepare to put themselves in harms way if necessary, because they believe in what they do and why they are there. Because they believe in our way of life.
For more than nine decades, hundreds of students and graduates from Lee High School have been part of that call to duty. Some volunteered, others were drafted. In time of war, these young men and women put aside promising lives, their education, jobs, and families to stand up to tyranny and injustice. They only wanted to do their job and come home. Most did, but not all. On the wall in the front lobby, the likenesses of 28 young men stand vigil over Lee High School and your freedoms every day. They were much like you, and certainly not much older, when they gave their last full measure of devotion to our country. They, and hundreds more like them who were indeed fortunate to return, ask only one small favor from you.
Go on about your lives, make the most of your education, venture out into the community, and contribute to the world the best you can in the most positive way you can think. But always remember who defended your rights to be all you can be, and honor their service by making the most of the opportunities you encounter.
Thank our veterans and those still in uniform for their service. Take care of the wounded warriors who left some part of their bodies or their minds on the battlefield. Show mercy on those who are struggling with addictions, joblessness, and living on the streets. Care for the families of those soldiers who are deployed and those who will never come home. Hate the ugliness of war, but love the beauty of the men and women who care enough to deliberately place themselves in harms way every single day.
For you. For us. For all.