Veterans Day: Reminder of All That's Gone Before
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 America can learn "so much" from its veterans, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
"These are people who have demonstrated their patriotism, their courage, their love of freedom, and they're a part of our history," he said in a Pentagon Channel interview on this year's observance. "And it's important for people today to know them, to understand them and to appreciate them."
The day serves as a reminder of all that has come before, Rumsfeld said. It is because of those veterans and the battles they fought that Americans are able to exercise the freedoms we enjoy today.
"It is important that those of us who are involved today think of all the wonderful young men and women out serving across the globe defending our country against the extremists and terrorists," he said. "(Servicemembers) need to see it in context of our country's history to understand that they are part of something enormously important and critical to our success as a nation."
Rumsfeld said that growing up with a father in the Navy during World War II, "it never crossed my mind that I would do anything other than join the Navy."
And today, with that experience and his own service to draw from, he has a chance to greet and thank those serving around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and the Asian-Pacific area and have some idea of what they are going through.
"I feel I have a sense of their contribution and sacrifice that they make and the sacrifice that their families make. And needless to say, our country is blessed that they're willing to do that -- that they're willing to step forward and say, 'Send me,'" Rumsfeld said.
From the Nazis of World War II to the communists of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the country has faced numerous difficulties. Today, he said, the country faces another form of tyranny and repression from new players.
"We call it terrorism. In fact, it's probably better characterized as extremists, and terrorism is the weapon of choice that they're using," he said. "So the people have to understand that what (the servicemembers) are doing is different, to be sure. But the purpose is the same.
"The purpose is to see that the American people have an opportunity to live in freedom and get up in the morning and go where they want and say what they want and think what they want, which is precious. It's worth fighting for."