Clinton Thanks Veterans for Lives of Service
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 13, 2000 President Clinton thanked veterans for their lives of service during the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery here.
Clinton paid tribute “to the men and women who have stood at the barricades so that we may enjoy the blessings of liberty. Here we are, surrounded by the white markers that measure the last full measure of their devotion.”
President Clinton places a wreath before the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery during Veterans Day ceremonies. Photo by Jim Garamone.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
He used the occasion to remind Americans that even without a war, military service is still dangerous, and service members are called on to make the supreme sacrifice.
“Three such heroes were interred here just in the past few weeks,” Clinton said. “They were members of the United States Ship Cole, working to preserve peace and stability in a region vital to our interests, their lives taken on Oct. 12 by a brutal act of terrorism.”
Clinton introduced Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, captain of the Cole, and some 20 members of the crew. They received a standing ovation from the more than 5,000-member audience.
Clinton said Americans must honor veterans by maintaining the freedoms they defended. “If ever there was a doubt about the value of citizenship, and each individual's exercise of the freedom of citizenship to vote, this week's election certainly put it to rest,” Clinton said.
He said the response of the American people points to the strength of our democracy. “We have a Constitution; we have a rule of law. We voted, and now the system is trying to figure out exactly what we said,” Clinton said to laughter and applause. Eventually, the system will do that, according to the Constitution and laws, and America will be just fine.”
nother way to honor veterans, he said, was to ensure the veterans are taken care of and that today’s military stays strong. “Just a few days ago, I proudly signed legislation increasing funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs by $1.5 billion,” he said. He said the additional funds would help ensure the nation's 24 million veterans receive high-quality medical care, improve the delivery of benefit payments for veterans and increase compensation for disabilities.
For today’s military he cited the 3.7 percent pay increase and efforts made to ensure military health care for life.
Finally, he said, the country honors its veterans by accounting for all those put in harm’s way. “Regardless of the conflict in which they fought, we will do all in our power to find them and bring them home if they are captured, missing in action or fallen on the battlefield,” the president said. He announced that the remains of 15 Americans were being repatriated from North Korea. He also said that when he visits Vietnam, he would visit a crash site that Americans and Vietnamese together are excavating.
“I will be the first president to visit that country since 1969,” he said. “Over the past decade, we have moved, step by step, toward normalized relations with Vietnam, based on one central priority -- gaining the fullest possible accounting of American prisoners of war and Americans missing in action in Southeast Asia. Continuing cooperation on these issues is on the top of my agenda for this trip, even as we open a new chapter in our relations with Vietnam.”
Clinton, who has spoken at Veterans Day ceremonies here for all eight years of his presidency, said history will be kind to America and its veterans.
“I believe it will be written that once there was a great nation of free people who sent their very best young men and women out to serve on the frontiers of freedom in uniform,” he said. “They went forth to defend their nation and its ideals, giving up the comforts and conveniences of home. Too many never returned to their families, but none who served ever sacrificed in vain.