Speech to Northwestern Middle School - November 11, 2009
Thank you for the invitation to join you to
celebrate Veteran’s Day. As a Legislator and resident of this
district I am especially proud to participate in the Middle School
ceremony to show respect for the men and women who serve in our
Veterans Day was first called “Armistice
Day” following the armistice agreement that was signed with Germany
on November 11, 1918, effectively ending World War I. In 1954,
the national holiday was changed to “Veterans Day” and President
Dwight Eisenhower called on all Americans to recognize the bravery
and sacrifices of America's veterans.
Today is a national holiday to honor those
from all branches of service: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and
Coast Guard. However, it is much more. It is a day to
celebrate who we are and what we want to be.
Veterans Day is personal. The men and women
who proudly wear the uniform love America. As a Viet Nam veteran I
am honored to have served. Despite the deep divisions and danger, I
volunteered to go to Viet Nam because I felt an obligation to my
fellow soldiers. So also did you your parents, grandparents,
relatives and neighbors who proudly served or are serving this
In World War I, America's veterans answered
the call to fight the war to end all wars.
In World War II, America's veterans, many of whom were no more than 6
years older than you, proudly fought to protect our nation and
brought peace and freedom back to the world.
Our soldiers fought on the hardened cold
ground of Korea and in the hot jungles of Viet Nam. They answered
the call to serve our nation and preserve our way of life. They
donned the uniform as a matter of duty to their fellow citizens.
They served in harsh conditions because they are proud Americans who
felt a duty to serve their country.
It is personal. The freedoms we enjoy in
America are the rewards from the dedicated service of brave men and
women who proudly wear the military uniform. The life, liberty
and pursuit of happiness of all Americans are connected to the
service and sacrifice of the millions of Americans who serve this
nation both at home and across the globe.
It is personal. As a nation we are one
family, and to those who give us their best, we owe our best efforts
to repay the debt of gratitude for their service. Think about the
mothers and fathers who have sent their sons and daughters off to
protect America. We owe them our thanks. We owe them our commitment
that we will serve our community in a way in which we honor their
It is personal. Today the nation grieves for
those who were tragically killed at Fort Hood in Texas. Names
we didn’t know before are now faces burned into the nation’s soul.
Two of your fellow Wisconsin citizens were killed in this terrible
event. Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, Wis. joined the Army after the
2001 terrorist attacks and had vowed to take on Osama bin Laden.
She had served one tour in Iraq and was about to be deployed to
The other soldier was Milwaukee resident
Russell Seager who joined the military at age 51 and had pushed
officials to deploy him overseas to provide mental health services.
At a late age he joined the military because he believed in service
and felt an obligation to step forward and serve.
They were patriots, and as stunned as we are
by the event, every American is stirred by and eternally grateful
for their service.
Today in Afghanistan and Iraq, our brave
soldiers endure 130 degree heat and sand storms as part of their
duty in serving their country. These are brave men and women who
endure harsh conditions, confront uncertainty and still perform
heroic deeds each day to serve our country and defend freedom.
It is personal. Some in this room know of
friends or loved ones who have served or are serving America.
Let me introduce you to some neighbors whose
names you may never have seen or faces you have never met:
Sergeant Dan H. Gabrielson from Spooner was
39 years of age and could have been the age of some of your parents
or a teacher. He died on July 9, 2003 in Ba Qubah, Iraq.
SPC Paul J. Sturno from Rice Lake was only
21 when he died on September 22, 2003 in Quest, Iraq.
Lance Corporal J. Van Alstine from Superior
was also only 21 when he died in February 25, 2006 in Ar Ramadi,
Corporal Kenneth Cross, also 21 and from
Superior, died Aug. 27, 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq.
Lance Corporal Harry H. Timerberman from
Minong was only 20 years old when he died in 2007 in Al Anbar
province in Iraq.
Sergeant First Class Matthew Pionk from
Superior was 30 when he died in January, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq.
Sergeant Pionk sacrificed his own life and credited for saving the
lives of his fellow soldiers
Finally, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Vrooman whose
parents live in Superior died July 15, 2008 when his brave actions
saved the lives of 35 of his fellow soldiers.
These men and women are heroes. They were
ordinary people who have paid the ultimate price in service to an
eternally grateful nation. Their sacrifice along with the passionate
devotion of all the men and women serving in our armed forces are an
inspiration and you and I owe them our dedication.
Your grandparents and great grandparents are
known as the greatest generation for their selfless dedication
during World War II that helped save the world. It is up to
you to become the next greatest generation, to pay tribute to the
men and women who have given Americans the great lives we enjoy
For love of country we must perform
individual acts to improve the lives of others. For love of those
who have given so very much so that we can enjoy life, we must reach
deeper inside to discover the meaning of giving to others.
My generation was called to action by
President Kennedy. In his inauguration address he said: “My fellow
Americans, ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you
can do for your country. Ask not what America will do for you, but
what we can together for the freedom of man.”
As my generation responded, your generation
has an obligation to respond as well. We must all ask ourselves what
we are doing for the betterment of our nation. We must ask ourselves
what is the meaning of liberty. What are we willing to sacrifice to
sustain our freedom and strengthen our community? In what ways
can we show respect and offer support to others? How can we honor
veterans in more ways than giving speeches on Veterans Day? What can
we do to offer our words of thanks to those who are serving us in
dangerous places? What can we do to be better citizens in offering
service to others?
This room is filled with promise and each
of you can answer these questions through your deeds. Today, thank a
veteran, whether it is a stranger or a friend or family member. Let
them know that you appreciate their sacrifice.
Take time to more deeply appreciate the
greatness of America and learn about the contributions of those who
have served. To honor veterans is to honor America. The freedoms you
enjoy did not come for free. The opportunities that await you, the
promise of a better life are all interconnected by those who serve.
To those whom the best is given, much is
expected in return. Celebration of Veterans Day is personal. It is
up to each and every one of you to honor the gifts you have been
given and achieve the great promise that lies within you.
Thank you and thank a veteran.