Myers: America Must Never Forget Its Veterans
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2002 Americans must never fail to honor this country's veterans on this important holiday, the nation's top general said today.
"When we remember, we keep their legacy alive," said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Myers and other dignitaries, most of them veterans, spoke at a Veterans Day ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Wall's dedication. Thousands braved the rain and ever-present mud to pay their respects.
Myers said veterans in this country are part of a family. "They're our fathers, our sons, our mothers, our daughters, our friends, our neighbors," he said. "Their selfless service touches so many lives."
The general remarked that it doesn't matter where Americans honor their veterans at the Wall, at other U.S. memorials, or at any of the two dozen American battle monuments in 15 countries around the world. "What's important is that we make the journey," he said.
He called it fitting that the nation should commemorate the Wall today. Myers said the memorial serves as a place of healing and reconciliation, and "to renew our memories of those who gave their all for this great nation."
The Wall reminds Americans "this nation is free because individual citizens have performed singular acts of courage literally millions of times," he said. "Every name etched into this marble testifies to that."
Myers also lauded the men and women he leads in today's military services. "Like those of you who have come before, today our servicemen and women set aside their interests, set aside their comfort, set aside their well-being to safeguard the interests, the comfort and the well-being of Americans and many others," he said.
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, also a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, said that, to Americans, Vietnam is so much more than a name on a map.
"It's a period in time. It's a one-word encapsulation of history -- a one-word summary of a war, in the view of many, gone wrong, of families divided, generations divided, a nation divided," he said. "It carries in its seven letters all of the confusion, bitterness, love, sacrifice and nobility of America's longest war."
He said remembering those killed in Vietnam helps the nation remember "what they were and remain part of - a great nation committed to peace, individual liberty and freedom for all."
The Wall's designer Maya Lin was unable to attend the ceremony but sent a message to be read here. "For 20 years, we have shared, through this memorial, an emotional tie to this place," she wrote. "You, the veterans of the Vietnam War, your family, your children, your friends have shared with us your courage, your sacrifice, your history. And now, I want to thank you for that sacrifice."
The ceremony closed on an emotional note for many in the crowd. Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a Vietnam veteran and now a retired Navy chaplain, recited the same prayer he wrote to close the Wall's dedication ceremony on Veterans Day in 1982.
"God, let this monument and this ceremony forever remind us that we will come together to mourn our dead, we will come together to reach out to our wounded, we will come together to remember and honor our brave," he said.
"Only then may we have the vision to dream our dreams again. Only then may we have the faith to pray our prayers again. Only then may we have the courage to march together again, to stand together again to make this the kind of country in the kind of world for which we pray."