Veterans Day Speech
Museum of Flight
November 11, 2009

Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me a few minutes on this special day. We are gathered today to honor our nation's veterans. All Americans recognize and appreciate our veterans, whether they served in times of peace, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, and Iraq or Afghanistan.

Today we are honored to have with us General Patrick Brady - a man who in one day used 3 helicopters to evacuate 51 seriously wounded men, in conditions most of us see only in movies. He is an example of the kind of person we speak about every year in these observances - ordinary people who are called upon to do extraordinary things.

Veterans Day has a long and solemn history. The event that inspired it took place 90 years ago today in a small railway car in a French forest. On November 11, 1918 the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice that ended one of the bloodiest wars the world had ever witnessed. By the time that day arrived, World War I had raged for more than four years, and more than 8 million soldiers had given their lives. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of that 11th month, the guns fell silent - and peace began to return to Europe.

President Woodrow Wilson declared that November 11th should be remembered as Armistice Day - a holiday to honor the brave sacrifices of the American soldiers who defended democracy and freedom overseas. We now recognize that holiday as Veteran's Day, a day when we celebrate, thank, and honor every man and woman who has served in our Armed Forces.

Millions of military veterans walk among us, many of whom gave some of the best years of their lives to the service of the United States, and we thank them. They have provided many examples of courage, service, and sacrifice. Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance". Today we appreciate living in a country where citizens from every generation have willingly and courageously united to defend the freedoms we hold dear. These veterans are noble Americans - they are our sons and daughters, our fathers and mothers; they are our family and they are our friends. They leave home to do the work of patriots, and they come home to lead lives of the quiet everyday men and women.

For the veterans here today, THANK YOU for your service and sacrifice. You have served in the greatest military in the world. For those of you who are not veterans, thank you for choosing to share this time with us, to show your support of our military heroes, past and present.