Thank you all for being here to honor all of our citizens who have served our nation.
I would especially like to extend my appreciation for the Boy Scouts of America for their role in raising the flag of our nation.
Also, let’s give appreciation for the Centerville High School band.
Moreover, let’s thank the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War Color Guard for being here at this ceremony of honor.
But before I start with my main comments I believe it is important to remember our fellow citizens along the east coast who since Oct. 29 have been dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy. An estimated $50 billion dollars in damage has occurred in the affected areas. Some 113 people have lost their lives due to this storm. Many are still without power in the New York’s Staten Island and areas of New Jersey.
It is gratifying to read that many veterans have taken the lead in helping out their fellow citizens as Red Cross volunteers or as good neighbors. Also, the active duty components of our armed forces are lending a helping hand to those in need. This incident clearly shows how the military can help our fellow Americans. Please remember to contribute to the American Red Cross for the relief effort.
When did Veterans Day really begin? Some point out that its origin was from Armistice Day Nov. 11, 1918 when the guns of World War I fell silent in Europe. However, I feel that perhaps we need to look back further in our history to the time frame just after the American Civil War.
Union veterans of the war formed an organization called the Grand Army of the Republic. Its zenith was in 1890 when it boasted a membership of 490, 000. The GAR held an annual encampment from 1866 to 1949. One of the largest was held in Detroit, Mich. in 1914. Members included General Ulysses Grant and a junior officer named William McKinley. Both would become presidents of the United States.
The group was politically active as well. During these years the organization lobbied for obtaining pensions, compensation for injuries and other benefits. Moreover, the main organization did its best to obtain voting rights for the black veterans. But many black veterans did not receive the compensation that they deserved or the right to vote because of the racial inequality issues of the time.
The GAR had posts located in many areas but were concentrated in the Midwest and the North east. It is interesting to come upon the buildings of these organizations in various locations. Here veterans shared stories of a terrible war that resulted in some 600,000 deaths with two thirds of these deaths from disease and environmental conditions. The last member of the GAR passed on in 1956.
In the decades following World War I the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion created many posts around our nation. The purpose was to honor the fallen and to commemorate the end of WWI which occurred on Nov. 11, 1918. This date would be called Armistice Day.
World War II resulted in largest influx of members in these organizations. A new focus or special day was needed for these veterans and also for the Korean War veterans. On Oct. 8, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation to honor all veterans who honorably served their country in peacetime or during times of War. Those conflicts included the following.
The Korean War
On June 25, 1950 Communist forces under Kim IL Sung with support from his fellow butchers Joe Stalin and Mao Zedong invaded the Republic of Korea. In this sea saw war the communists almost succeeded but were ultimately thrown back under the leadership of one of our most storied General’s Matthew Ridgeway or “Wrong way ridgeway “ as he was called by his troops. He took a defeated army and sent it north to victory. This was the first defeat of communism but the cost for the Korean people, the U.S, and other nations was staggering. Some 4 million died on all sides including some 40,000 Americans. It is said that “Freedom is not free”. This is true.
One who served was a young naval officer who flew 78 combat missions for the USS Essex to defend the South Korean People. He later became an engineer in science, and later became an astronaut in the Gemini and Apollo missions. On July 20, 1969 he became the first man to walk on the moon. He did it for his crewmates, and his nation. He loved his country. His name was Neil Armstrong. He passed away this summer. He was a great American.
The Vietnam War
In late 1956 the U.S sent advisors to help the Republic of South Vietnam resist communist insurgents. Later full communist units, under the direction of the dictator Ho Chi Minh, from North Vietnam invaded. This was anything but a civil war. Our nation was divided as never before. The antiwar movement protesting their own country at the U.N would say it was a civil war and not an invasion but would neglect to mention the communists and their actions in Vietnam, China, Tibet and Eastern Europe. Our forces were not sent to win, did not receive the backing from our people at home because the objectives of the war were never spelled out. Our political leaders failed in many ways and the bombing halts were simply a means for the enemy to bring down more supplies to kill more Americans and South Vietnamese who would not conform to Ho and his gangsters. When we left in 1972 as a result of the Paris Peace Accords communist forces broke all the agreements and conquered the country. We did nothing because our congress shut off funds and allowed no more bombing. We left the people of Cambodia and South Vietnam to their fate. Money was never cut off for Israel or our European allies but the people of South East Asia were expendable. It was a sad day for freedom. The peace movement did not protest the communists. They were happy for the communists. They are the hypocrites of history. They have the blood of 1.7 million Cambodians and thousands of South Vietnamese on their hands.
President Ronald Reagan 13 years later on Nov. 11, 1988 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stated.”…And yet after more than a decade of desperate boat people, after the killing fields of Cambodia, after all that has happened in that unhappy part of the world, who could doubt that the cause for which they fought for was just? It was, after all, however imperfectly pursued, the cause of freedom: and they showed uncommon courage in its service. Perhaps at this late date we can all agree that we’ve learned one lesson: that young Americans must never again be sent to fight and die unless we are prepared to let them win.
Grenada and Panama were other conflicts in which U.S forces acted to rid an island of allies of Castro and rid Panama of General Noriega.
The Persian Gulf Wars of 1990 and 2003 were fought to liberate Kuwait from Saddam and later from his own people. We can only hope that someday the people of Iraq will appreciate the service and sacrifice of America and its allies.
We must also remember Americans serving around the world today, especially in Afghanistan. The Taliban and the terrorists are still strong. As with Iraq we hope that this service and loss of life was not in vain.
During peacetime and in wartime there are always training accidents. We must remember these individuals as well. Many were lost during the “Cold War” opposing communist expansion.
Finally, I believe it is important that the Israeli government fully explain how in the world a U.S Naval ship, the USS Liberty was attacked by jets of that nation on June 7, 1967 in international waters. Thirty four Americans died and over a hundred were wounded. Our leaders in Washington — just as they perhaps today concerning the death of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya — were negligent in their duties.
Later after seeing this lack of action the North Korean Communists attacked and captured the USS Pueblo. Our sailors were killed and then held captive by a ruthless enemy for over a year. We did nothing concerning this matter. It is still not clear why we were so unprepared. How much face did we lose with this incident? America must be strong and take action when needed.
But also, we must be aware of socialism and communism — the big lies of the last century from taking hold in our own country. When we lose our self — independence and depend on government we are doomed. We must never let this happen. This would dishonor all of those who have served and gave their lives in our Armed Forces for our nation.
So today my friends we have a great deal to be grateful for.
Please remember to thank a veteran today.
Thank you and God bless America.
Lt. Colonel Richard H. Keilig Jr. Medical Service Corps U.S. Army Reserve (Ret) Veterans Day Address in Centerville Nov. 10, 2012