By Lt. Colonel Richard H. Keilig Jr.
The Daily Iowegian
---- — Thank you very much Mayor Jan Spurgeon for your remarks on this special day to honor those who have served our country. I would also, like to extend appreciation to the Boy Scouts, the CHS band, which has just recently earned a Division I marching band award, fellow citizens and most of all my fellow veterans. However before I begin my comments I want us to all think of our friends in the Republic of the Philippines who are recovering from perhaps the strongest typhoon on record. Thousands have lost their lives and our country stands by to help a country so connected to our own history.
Veterans Day originally was meant to honor those who served in WWI but the purpose was broadened to include all Americans who served in the armed forces during peacetime and war by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955. The meaning and the purpose of this day involves dedication, duty, and service to our nation. Moreover, this day brings forth the importance of all Americans to be good citizens and be 100 percent committed to the well-being of this nation.
The dedication, duty and service have been paid for by the total sacrifice by our veterans. Our ancestors, under the command of General Washington, fought in the Revolutionary War and suffered many hardships to make a new nation. One hundred and fifty years ago this month President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the National Cemetery at Gettysburg to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep this nation together. The Spanish –American War and two World Wars would follow with many more sacrifices. America had found itself involved in World Affairs.
Soon after the conclusion of the Second World War, the threat of International Communism aimed to starve out the people of occupied Western Berlin which had been divided up by the WWII allies after Germany fell. The Berlin Airlift of 1947-1948 saved many lives and our country was a big part of that effort. Further threats resulted in a new alliance in Europe called NATO, which was formed in 1949, to deter the Dictator Joseph Stalin who ruled the Soviet Union and its subjected allies.
In Asia South Korea was invaded by Communist forces on June 25, 1950. Americans along with other nations were called upon to save a nation that they never learned about in school much less locate on a map. The Communists failed in their goal. Many from this county served in this three year conflict and those that lost their lives are honored on special memorials at the Appanoose County Courthouse. The stories of each of these individuals are very special. During our research for the memorial plaques we came to appreciate what they must have gone through to serve our country and to help their buddies. The infantry men, a pilot, the combat medics, the combat engineer- each had a story of courage.
After the Korean War the tensions increased throughout the globe. The period known as the Cold War continued. The Berlin Crisis of August-October 1961, which resulted in a wall with obstacles and guards who would shoot to kill, kept East Berliners from their families in the West. Our limited forces were present to deter a Communist takeover of the Western zone. U.S Patton tanks faced off against Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie ready to defend the people of Berlin against overwhelming Soviet Forces. Later Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the direct result of Soviet threats to launch missiles 90 miles from our coasts. Many citizen soldiers from the National Guard and Reserves were called up by President John Kennedy to protect our country during these two events. My father along with many others was called to duty at this important time. America’s role during this period of time was vitally important.
Perhaps America’s greatest day during this period of time occurred in June of 1963 when over half a million Berliners listened to President Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner speech. The greeting was incredible. America and its leader were truly loved in Europe. In 1978 as a young 2nd Lieutenant I had the honor of traveling to West Berlin on a special troop train through occupied East Germany to see where President Kennedy spoke and to see the Berlin Wall. Later, during a visit to West Berlin, President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. Down it came in 1989 when Berliners took it down with sledgehammers.
When President Kennedy lost his life fifty years ago this month our country lost its direction. The nation under new leadership became more involved in South Vietnam. But the war was mismanaged and bungled. After the U.S pullout in 1972 the Communist forces violated every agreement and launched a full scale invasion in late 1974 into 1975. South Vietnam and Cambodia were lost with some 2 million executed. The congress did what the antiwar groups wanted. The groups said “stop the bombing” and “give peace a chance”. The result was a Communist peace consisting of death. The anti-war protestors were nowhere to be seen when these events took place. Our congress had abandoned our allies. What nation could ever trust the U.S. again?
The four painful lessons of Vietnam were the following: 1. never send your young men off to war without letting them win, 2. earn the support of the American people, 3. have clear objectives, and lastly ensure that the people you are supposed to be helping must be fully involved to fight for their freedom and led by leaders who care about their people.
The courage shown by our service men from our county in Vietnam was just as honorable as in previous conflicts. They are honored as well with a memorial at the courthouse. President Reagan during his addresses at the Vietnam Memorial honored those who died in that war and honored those who survived. He welcomed them back and helped to restore their dignity. He also stated that we must never forget the thousands of POW and missing in action.
The veterans of the Gulf Wars, and Afghanistan –a conflict still in progress- deserve our thanks, support and prayers. Their mission to attack the backers of the 9-11-01 attacks is vital to stop future attacks. Also, we need to remember all of those who serve our country around the world.
Today, every citizen has a duty to be thankful to those that have served. To honor the sacrifices of our veterans we need to be loyal, safeguard our liberties, protect our borders, and care for our veterans. Those that have aided the enemy directly by posing with enemy gun crews during Vietnam dishonor those who served. Those that used bombs to protest are terrorists just as much as the 9-11-01 attackers. Both individuals and groups are traitors and should have been imprisoned. We need to remember that our country is based on the Constitution of the United States. Our borders are to be guarded with no nation’s leaders telling us this is wrong, especially in front of our own U.S. Congress. We must also ensure that our veterans get the best medical care through the Veterans Administration Health Care System and that funds are spent wisely. A few minutes taken to write an e mail or call a representative in Washington D.C will help in improved health care.
Lastly, remember to thank a vet and if you have a business hire the vet. Pray for peace and freedom. Thanks for being here and God Bless America.