Welcome all Veterans and family members, good evening Veteran of the Year, Priscilla Fonseca. It is a great privilege for me to speak at the “Veteran of the Year” dinner.
I want to thank you for your sacrifices made in service to our Country. Our liberty and freedom has been protected and secured by your selfless acts.
Tomorrow marks the 97th year we have paid tribute to Veterans who have served the United States of America. As we learned in History back in grammar school, — on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m. the Great War, the “war to end all wars” – World War One, ended when, an Armistice Agreement, was signed by Germany at 5:00 A.M. that morning, went into effect. One year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed “Armistice Day” to recognize “the solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory…”
On May 13, 1938, Congress, with the support of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, made November 11th a national holiday known as “Armistice Day.” This tribute was to honor all WWI veterans. However, after WWII, and the Korean War, veteran organizations petitioned Congress to change the name to Veterans Day. On June 1, 1954, with the support of President Dwight Eisenhower, “Armistice Day” became “Veterans Day” honoring all veterans in the United States of America. In 1968, under President Lyndon Johnson, Uniforms Monday Holiday Act was created to incorporate four existing national holidays into three day weekends, Veterans Day, being one of the four. The law went into effect in 1971 when Veterans Day was observed on October 25, 1971. But, moving the Veterans Day observance from November 11th to a convenient Monday in October, for the purpose of a three day weekend, was like telling someone to observe their birthday—on a day when it is convenient for the general public. President Gerald Ford understood this slight to Veterans, and in the fall of 1975, signed a law to return “Veterans Day” to its proper observance date of November 11th. This law went into effect in 1978, and since then, November 11th of each year is the day that Veterans are honored and celebrated. Tomorrow will mark the 98th anniversary of the end of WW One and, appropriately, we will celebrate our Veterans’ contributions to our society.
Memorial Day has an interesting history as well. Memorial Day honors our men and women who gave their life while in the service of the United States. It was established in 1868 by General John A. Logan. It was a day to honor the Union Army War dead, to be observed on May 30, 1868. It was first proclaimed to be “Decoration Day” as its purpose was to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers. In the South, “memorial day” honoring fallen confederate soldiers began in 1866. In 1967, 99 years after the first “Decoration Day” proclamation, President Johnson signed a law which changed the name from “Declaration Day” – to “Memorial Day.” Unfortunately, however, in 1968, Memorial Day became subject to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which stipulated that Memorial Day be observed on a Monday, thereby creating a three day weekend. Many Veteran organizations believe that moving Memorial Day from its May 30th origins to the last Monday in May, has devalued the importance of the day. Blending Memorial Day with a weekend, has turned this solemn day into the early start of summer and a merchandizing holiday. The fact is, the simplicity and singular purpose of the origin of these two days, adopted to honor our veterans, should never have been compromised by the pressures of the marketplace or public convenience. When it comes to honoring Veterans, the holiday should not get lost in modern day clutter. For this reason, I believe Memorial Day should also be returned to its traditional date of May 30th. Hopefully with your input, Congress will restore the original date of remembrance of our war dead.
At this time, I want to pay tribute to Priscilla Fonseca, the 21st recipient of the Veteran of the Year Award. In her 55 years of advocacy for Veterans’ rights, she has been a champion for every – man and woman – who has served in the military of the United States. She interjects the Veterans’ cause and the needs of Veterans’ families into our community’s consciousness on a weekly basis through her Veterans Advocate Program on New Bedford’s Cable TV network. She is tireless. She is persuasive and effective in shining the light on our Veterans concerns, whether it’s health care, housing, employment or benefits, Priscilla Fonseca has made a tremendous contribution in honoring America’s Veterans. She believes that:
• They love our country.
• Veterans are “loyal” to America’s democracy.
• They put their personal lives on hold to serve.
• They ask their families to sacrifice.
• They understand a system of command.
• They are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and they demonstrate heroic bravery.
• They follow all orders, and make the ultimate commitment to complete any mission. Then they come home and resume their lives as great citizens.
Thank you Priscilla for your great work.
Two days ago, our country elected its 45th President, Donald J. Trump. Thirty-two of our previous Presidents have served in the military, in fact, 3 have served as the highest commander in War time – Eisenhower in WWII, Grant in the Civil War and Washington in the Revolutionary War. Only four Presidents have had no connection with the military prior to becoming Commander in Chief – Harding, Clinton, Obama and now Trump. During the campaign, President-Elect Trump professed his unwavering support for the Veterans of the United States, and millions of Veterans across America voted for the Trump/Pence ticket. Veterans voted for Trump for many individual reasons, but, needless to say, his support of Veterans’ causes was a key factor. On Wednesday, he asked us all to give him our support, and ideas, on how we can work together to accomplish his goals. As Americans, we will rally around our new President. Thus, as we lend the President our support, let us also help him set the Veterans’ agenda.
First, fight no war without a clear objective, sustainable mission, and with a path to victory.
Second, follow all the Geneva Convention protocols—but fight to win.
Third, send no fighting man or woman into a hostile area without the best military equipment in the world.
Fourth, devote the resources to care for the sick and wounded both on the battlefield, and here at home.
Fifth, expand the programs to support the families of all military men and women, whether at home or while deployed.
Sixth, when a Veteran leaves the service, provide that man or woman with educational opportunities, career training, employment opportunities, federal and state housing opportunities, small business consulting and financing.
Seventh, provide full medical care and appropriate pension and disability benefits. All of these benefits must be easily accessible.
Eighth, provide psychological counseling on a regular basis with full emergency counseling services available to the Veterans and their families. Never leave a Veterans’ health or psychological issues to wait, if we would not spare any effort on the battlefield to care for our wounded – don’t spare the efforts at home. We must help and protect our Veterans who are suffering from PTSD, the real human tragedies that we are witnessing every day must be addressed.
Ninth, review, improve and expand all Veterans services. I am sure all of you can, and will, add additional needs and programs to share with the new Administration. As Veterans, your input is vitally needed and will be appreciated by our President-Elect.
Lastly, let me say a few things to the newly elected President on your behalf, some things that only a civilian can say to another civilian without overreaching. First, Mr. President-Elect, any POW, any MIA, any KIA is an eternal American hero. Never cast any disparagement on these individuals. Their courage, bravery and commitment is beyond question. Always provide solace and honor to their families. Second, the Generals know more than a civilian. In fact, the Privates know more than a civilian. Give the greatest military in the history of the world the respect it has earned. Listen, don’t talk, then weigh in. Third, never tell the United States’ military to violate the Constitution of the United States, never tell them to violate a law or international treaty regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, or the treatment of their families. The United States’ military does not torture, and it does not kill the relatives of our enemies. Fourth, NATO is a deterrent force that has helped keep the peace in Europe since April of 1949. It has 28 Nation members who are our allies. We don’t charge our allies money to come to their aid, we will defend them, as it is both morally right and in our national interest to do so. Wavering on our commitment to NATO will encourage our enemies to test our resolve. Let the world know that the United States backs our allies. Fifth, the United States is at war with radical Islamic states and terrorists, and has been since the bombing of our Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and in fact, well before that. Remember, however, that we are also involved in a new cold war, a cyber war and proxy hot wars with Russia. Vladimir Putin is not our friend, or ally. We are the only country that has the valor and strength to confront Russian aggression. Don’t let our country’s guard down regarding Russia, and do not compromise the United States’ reputation as the beacon for the free world. As President, let every enemy know not to tread on America or its allies.
Sixth, our country is a republic with multiple systems of checks and balances designed to ensure and protect the will of the people. It is a government by and for the people, with civilian control over the most advanced and powerful military in the world. Each member of the military takes an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, and to follow orders from the Chain of Command. The President is the Commander in Chief – a sacred position under our Constitution, for this reason you must conduct yourself in a manner that makes our service men and women and their families confident, and proud of America every day. Do this for the Veterans of the United States, do it for all of the American people.
I have no doubt that the Trump Administration will value the men and women of our military, their families and our Veterans. Let us all resolve to work with President-Elect Trump in the best interest of our armed service personnel and the Veterans of America.
In closing, I want to recognize that Veterans Day eve is always the United States Marine Corps birthday. Founded in 1775 the Marine Corps is 241 years old today. The Marines are a special group of patriots. Happy Birthday and Semper Fidelis. Thank you again, all Veterans for making us all proud, and please, during this holiday season, I ask you all to say a prayer for the valent men and women wearing the colors of the United States in faraway lands.
Scott W. Lang