Saturday, March 19, 2011

Veteran's Day Speech

I gave this speech on Veteran's Day 2010.  I just finished reading Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose and wanted to post something to recognize our Veteran's  and I thought of this.  I hope you will read it and remember our Veterans and maybe post a comment in support of them.  Thanks.

Veteran's Day Speech

Fort Gibson School Assembly
November 11, 2010

Good Morning. It's an honor to be here with you this morning. The last time I spoke to a group in this building it was for the celebratory occasion we call graduation, ... for the Class of 1989. The occasion that brings us together today is of a more solemn character. That occasion, as you are aware, is the observance of Veteran's Day. Veteran's Day, which started out as Armistice Day, the day that the Armistice Agreement that ended the bloodbath now known as World War I was signed. Since that time the day has become Veteran's Day and is now observed in remembrance of all Veterans who have served the United States in the defense of Liberty.

Liberty, a term we have all heard and casually used but which has a power to move men to do extraordinary things. In 1775 Patrick Henry made a speech before the Continental Congress which he concluded with the words, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" So why is liberty so important? Why would a man make a statement like, "give me liberty or give me death!" Why would men fight and die to defend liberty? I submit to you today that it is because they truly believe and understand that liberty is worth the price. The freedom to decided for yourself what you will become and to achieve anything that your talent and determination make possible. To live without the encumbering bonds of a tyrannical government or dictator.

These are the core values that motivate people to enlist in the Armed Forces and dedicate years of their lives maybe even their lives if called upon to do so to defend the United States and the liberty and freedom that she embodies. When John F. Kennedy said, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty." He knew that it would be men and women who were willing to commit themselves fully to the preservation of freedom who would actually fulfill such an audacious promise.

Men and women, who give without expecting anything in return. They write a blank check to the United States of America and they back it with their lives if necessary. And when the task is done, the ones who survive go back to their homes and they raise their families and do their jobs and they live next door to us and we don't even know their stories. Take for example PFC Toby Braveboy from Coward, SC. Private First Class Toby Braveboy was a Creek Indian with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th US Cavalry. On November 17, 1965 PFC Braveboy was walking point for 1st platoon in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam when the first shots of what turned into a three day battle rang out and Toby was shot in the left hand and thigh and his M-16 rifle was destroyed. Weaponless and in extreme pain he crawled into thick brush and hid. When night fell he left his hiding place and started trying to find his way back. He quickly ran into 3 more wounded American soldiers. They're wounds were too severe for them to crawl so Toby set out again to try and find help. He soon came upon more wounded American soldiers just as they were discovered by a Vietnamese patrol. Toby was already covered in blood so he played dead and was taken for dead by the Vietnamese soldiers who over the next few hours executed the other wounded American soldiers. Finally when the Vietnamese patrol moved on Toby set out again, but by now he was totally disoriented and he crawled through tall elephant grass toward what he though was his company but he was going in the wrong direction. At daybreak the next day he hid in the underbrush along side the Ia Drang river. Still bleeding from his left hand and continually tortured by mosquitoes, ants and the chill of the night air he stayed hidden until on November 22 a Vietnamese patrol was passing by very near to his hiding place and the last soldier in the column just happened to look into the brush and see him. Toby later recounted, "Four walked by me and the last one looked me right in the eye. He stopped and pointed his rifle at me. I raised my wounded hand and shook my head no. He lowered his rifle and walked away. So young. He was just a boy, not more than sixteen or seventeen." Two days later the US Air Force began bombing the area around where Toby was hiding. Desperate, he wrapped his shirt around his hand that had already begun to develop gangrene and staggered out into a clearing to try and flag an American plane or helicopter. A helicopter pilot saw him and he was rescued, seven days after he was shot. The local newspaper in Coward, SC had already run his obituary, but he had survived and he was honorably discharged from the Army and returned to his hometown where he went to work as a roofer.

There are veteran's like Private Braveboy who's stories we will never know in every small town and every big city in this country. They don't ask for recognition for what they do, they put their medals in a drawer and they cover their scars and they go about their lives and we remain unaware of the heroes among us. But once a year, we dedicate a day to recognize the Veterans living and dead who served and fought to defend liberty. We can never repay the debt we owe to them and they wouldn't allow it if we could so we just set aside this solemn day, we dedicate some time and we say Thank You. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you and God bless you and God bless America.

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