Monday, November 14, 2005

Remarks Prepared for Secretary Alphonso Jackson
November 11, 2005

In 1919, America paused for the very first time to pay tribute to the brave men and women in uniform who served to protect the freedoms of our country. The symbols of their sacrifice surround each and every one of us. From the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, to the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima, to the troops fighting terrorism in Iraq, American soldiers represent the truest acts of heroism.

Our nation has witnessed countless acts of courage in the last 200 years. These real-life stories of bravery resonate with all of us, old and young, men and women, from every walk of life. On this day, Veterans Day, we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and pay tribute to the many fighting terrorism at home and abroad to protect our freedoms.

During WWII, General Dwight Eisenhower led his troops to the beaches of Normandy. He knew the brave men faced a very tough battle, but he also knew the freedoms of this country rested on the shoulders of those preparing to storm the shores. President Eisenhower said to the troops, "You are about to embark on a great crusade. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you." The General's words still ring true today.

Marine Corporal Lamont Noel Wilson understood the importance of his service to our nation as he fought on the frontlines of the Iraqi war. He signed every letter home "Sleep well America." He fought for his country to allow others to live in peace, comfort and security. Corporal Wilson joined the Marine Corps to make his father proud and wrote to his church congregation and his family about the importance of his mission.

In one letter to his mother he wrote, "I know that I'm always in God's everlasting arms. Tell my church family I feel safe whenever I go out because I can feel their prayers. Keep praying for me and the troops. Gotta go, Mom. I have another mission."

On September 6, 2004, Corporal Wilson was killed by enemy action in the Anbar province of Iraq. Like the many brave soldiers before him, he gave his life so that we might remain free. It is important to remember that because of his, and many others, brave examples of extraordinary sacrifice, Americans are able to sleep well.

This Veterans Day, pause to reflect on all that has been given so that we might have the right to vote, the right to chose where we want to live, the right to send our children to school, and the right to have a piece of the American Dream. After all, it is our Veterans, who make the dream of freedom a reality.

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