Cheney: Recent Veterans Follow in Predecessors' Footsteps
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2005 Americans owe their freedom and liberty to military veterans, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said today during Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. He added that the current generation of servicemembers will continue in their predecessors footsteps.
Thousands of American veterans of previous wars are buried at Arlington, and some of those killed in the war of terror have found their final resting place there, as well.
The vice president represented President Bush at the Department of Veterans Affairs-sponsored ceremony. He thanked all those Americans who served. "Approximately 25 million of our citizens once carried the title of Marine, soldier, airman, sailor, Coast Guardsman, National Guardsman, Merchant Mariner and now carry the title of veteran," he said.
He spoke of the contributions that veterans have made to freedom in America and around the world. Americans who fought during World War II threw back tyrants, answered aggression and liberated millions, he said.
"Others of you defended our interests in the mountains of Korea or in the jungles of Vietnam or during the long vigil of the Cold War or in the caves of Afghanistan or the sands of the Middle East," Cheney said. "Whenever and wherever your service took place, you earned this nation's respect on the day you first put on the uniform, and you still have our respect today."
Veterans Day is celebrated Nov. 11 to mark the end of World War I. The armistice ending that war came into effect "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" in 1918. While their ranks "have grown thin," there are still a few American veterans from that war, Cheney said. He mentioned Emiliano Mercado del Toro, who, at 114, is reported to be the oldest person in the world and is a proud veteran of the U.S. Army. The Puerto Rican veteran served during the "Great War."
Del Toro and all veterans from all eras share the same fundamental commitments, the vice president said. "They took an oath to serve a cause greater than self-interest; they lived by a code and dedicated themselves to the highest standards of discipline and loyalty, diligence and faithfulness to duty," he said. "And they stood ready, if duty required it, to fight and to die for our country."
Once back in civilian life, veterans are the backbones of their communities, Cheney continued.
Today's soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen are no different than the Americans who preceded them, he said.
"In this young century, our nation has seen what harm our enemies can inflict and the kind of destruction they still intend for free nations," Cheney said. "We are deeply grateful to the men and women who rise every day in defense of America and our friends.
"Today's generation of American servicemembers are performing their duties with skill, with effectiveness and with honor," he continued. "They are deployed on many fronts in the war on terror, tracking the enemies of freedom and holding them to account."
The vice president also spoke of successes in the war on terror. "(American servicemembers) have taken down two dictatorships and liberated 50 million people from tyranny," he said. "And at this hour they continue their work, striking hard against the forces of murder and chaos, conducting raids, countering attacks, seizing weapons, capturing killers."
He said that servicemembers face difficult missions, and "we cannot know every turn that lies ahead."
"Yet," he added, "we can be certain that by the resolve of our country, by the rightness of our cause and by the character of our fighting forces we will prevail."