Every year, Veterans Day provides a time to remember, reflect and give thanks for the sacrifices service members have made to keep us safe and free.
Over the years, I seem to have picked up an annual Veterans Day tradition of listening to some of the best speeches Presidents have given honoring veterans and their sacrifices. Here are three excerpts from some of the most moving speeches that I’ll be reflecting on today.
On November 11, 1985, President Reagan gave a speech on Veterans Day honoring those who have fought and died for our country. He said the following:
“There is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a service man. For we’re never quite good enough to them. Not really. We can’t be. Because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a service man dies, it’s a tear in the fabric, a break in the hole and all we can do is remember.
It is in a way an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise, we see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and grey haired. But most of them were boys when they died and they gave up two lives, the one they were living, and the one they would have lived.”
On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address during the dedication ceremony for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery on the newly blood-soaked battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
“We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
General Dwight Eisenhower
On June 6, 1944, future-President, then-General Dwight Eisenhower delivered a message to the Allied Forces preparing to land on the beaches of Normandy, beginning their frontal assault on the forces of the Nazis.
“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less that full victory! Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
On this Veterans Day, I encourage you to thank a service member you know for their measure of devotion and courage. Each veteran has sacrificed much in service of us and our country, and they deserve our full and unwavering gratitude.
You can follow this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary