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Veterans Day Speech

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   This speech is being shared from Frackville, Pennsylvania this Veterans Day.

   I wonder how many of us thought of the true Essence of the Day. Perhaps this will remind us to.

   Dave Bowen, thank you for Sharing.
   Good evening, I am truly honored to be among you this evening, both as a Brother and for some of you, a fellow veteran.

   As I stand here and look out among you, I am indeed blessed, for I see a group of men, with varying ages, from the young to those like myself - not as young as my mind and body would like me to believe, yet, not ready to throw in the towel, and yet I see a group of men who, in whatever capacity, continue to serve their brothers, their families, their communities and in their own way, serve their nation.  And I assure you my brethren, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to be among such a dedicated and honored group of men, and to speak to you on a subject that is exceedingly close to my heart - Veterans Day and the American Veteran.

   As you know, (Yesterday) Monday, Nov. 11 we celebrated Veterans’ Day -that one day set aside each year to honor the brave men and women who have served or continue to serve our nation as members of the armed forces.  Airmen, sailors, marines, soldiers - young men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America defending our liberty and our way of life.  I would ask: as you observed this special day, did it present you with a sense of awe and a feeling of pride or was that feeling nothing more than, well, just another holiday and a day off from work?  I would hope that on that day your chest swelled with pride as you remembered and honored those Veterans who paid the ultimate price, and that your hearts beat a little faster from the joy, and excitement for what freedom means to all of us, because the Veteran was there to preserve it.
Brethren, I am here this evening to speak to you on the ‘The Essence of Veterans’ Day!’, an Essence that most of us have come to know and yet, in some respects, unwittingly take for granted.

First, let me explain what I mean by the word Essence.  
Essence is the ‘quality’ of something that gives it its identity,it is an intrinsic and indispensable property of that something.  

   Veterans Day IS a very special time, a unique moment in time, an ‘experience’ that touches all of our lives.  Nov 11th is the Day of the Veteran!  It has an indispensable and intrinsic quality, and then some.  I ask you brethren, whenever I use the word Veteran, do you not feel a slight tingle - a reverential awe?  If you do, you are beginning to experience the Essence of which I am referring.

   No, one cannot touch Essence, but essence can touch your life.  Life itself cannot be touched - both Essence and Life must be experienced through our thoughts, actions, and deeds and both must be ‘lived’ to experience and know these special intrinsic qualities.  

   I have found several words or phrases that are synonymous with the word Essence: and they are . . .‘basic nature’. . .‘sum and substance’. . .‘essential qualities’. . .‘core values'. . . and most importantly, ‘spirit’.

   The ‘spirit’ of many thousands of Veterans mark this, the 76th anniversary of the first Veterans Day.  I ask you Brethren, do you not feel the ‘SPIRIT’ of those brave men and women whose names are engraved on our community’s Alter of Freedom?  
   Do they not ‘live’ on in you and me and all of us, all who cherish their memories and honor their lives - all who are free to gather here this evening?  Aren’t the memories, the ceremonies, the speeches - are they not a part of that essence?

   This year marks the two hundred anniversary of the founding of the US Military Academy at West Point.  It is the senior military school in our nation, and many famous men and women have graced its halls and went on to become leaders of our great nation.  Ike Eisenhower, George Patton, Arnold Schwartzkoff, Generals Sherman, Lee, and Grant and quite possibly the most famous General of all, Brother Douglas MacArthur.

   It was upon his ‘retirement’ that Gen. MacArthur made these three little words not just famous but to come alive!  Duty - Honor - Country!  As I repeat them, Duty - Honor - Country - do you not begin to feel the essence?  Yes, a motto, a slogan, an oft used phrase, yet they are words that carry with them the Essence about which I speak.  Duty - Honor - Country - intrinsic and an indispensable qualities - the basic nature of the American Veteran - and whenever you say them, there comes a deep feeling of pride and an indescribable feeling of love for America.  

   Are you not now beginning to feel it, even if so very slight?  This Essence of Veterans’ Day is of course more than a phrase, it is the sum and substance of a duty to serve our great nation and to honor it through that service.
   Like most of us, we have heard of those words many times before.  Maybe, we even used them in some manner, either together or separately, but when put together - Duty, Honor, Country, they become more than a motto of West Point, they become a part of the Essence of Veterans Day.

   Duty, Honor, Country - are they not the ‘CORE Values’ of the Veteran’s ‘spirit’, that intrinsic spirit, that essential quality, that sum and substance - the very ‘basic nature’ of the American Veteran and are they not an indispensable part of the American Veteran?  

   Today as in the very beginnings of this great nation of ours, the Veteran was there, protecting our liberties, our freedom, and most importantly, our very lives.  

   Even now, both at home and abroad, the Veteran is in harm's way - for the threat to America and our way of life is very real.  And I know all of us can feel that threat, knowing that there are those who continue to voice their hatred for America.  At one time we knew the enemy, now the enemy hides behind masks and in caves and proclaims that god is on their side.  Of course we, as Americans know better.  God is on the side of right and on the side of justice, equality, freedom and liberty - all part of the substance that is the Essence of America

   Yet even though I speak of the Essence of Veterans Day as an intrinsic quality, it  is also very real:  it is the ‘sum and substance’, the ‘basic nature’ the ‘essential quality’ of Veterans Day - for Veterans Day is our young men and women, unique and special - our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, and our friends and neighbors.  Even though many of these brave men and women haven’t as yet ‘distinguished’ themselves among other Americans because of their youth, they are now ‘distinguished’ because they wear the uniform of America!  

   Veterans are ordinary people like you and me, Americans all, and yet they perform extraordinary deeds, deeds of heroism and valor, ever ready to risk their very lives to protect you and me and America.

   These young men and women are people just like you and me, people who love their country, know their duty, and honor their nation by serving America.  And again, Brethren, aren’t you feeling that Essence by now, maybe just a slight twinge of pride but an enormous jolt of patriotism?

   My heart swells with pride whenever I can speak before any group on this important occasion in the life of our Nation.  And I can assure you Brethren, that this pride is not just an intrinsic quality, but one that easily comes to the surface because I am proud to be an America, as well as a Veteran.  

   Before I close I would like to add this thought.  Just as we are taught to remember the lessons of Freemasonry, both in the Lodge and without, so too, I ask that you remember the lessons taught in school regarding the Essence of our nation’s Veterans and the valor they displayed in defending America and preserving our freedom.  

   From the winter of 1776 at Valley Forge to the Fall of 2001 in the rouged mountains of Afghanistan, our nation has faced many a foe and we have been successful because of how the brave men and women in uniform responded to the call, many of whom paid the ultimate price.


   From the beaches at Normandy, and the Saving of Private Ryan, to the perimeter at Khe San and the never ending barrage of mortar shells, to the mist that permeated the dessert in Iraq to the Twin Towers in New York City, Americans have died that I might be here tonight to talk with you.  Freedom has always carried with it a very significant price.  

   Whether visiting the battle field at Gettysburg or the Wall in DC, from remembering our ancestors to touching the name of a fallen comrade, a friend, a brother inscribed on the Viet Nam Memorial - to the tomb of the unknown soldier, an American hero whom is only known to the ages - there comes a feeling for the Essence that is this Day.  

   And whether we just stare out into space or break down and cry, as many of us have done and continue to do - you can feel the Essence.  It is so very real and to me, it is the sum and substance - the very core of America and, Brethren, never forget that the essence of this day is born within all of us.  For in some manner, in some way, this Essence has touched our lives, and I for one have felt it and continue to feel it, for this essence is a part of me as a Veteran who served his nation and for this I am proud and honored.

   As I conclude my talk remember this, the Essence of Veterans Day is more than a time spent in listening to speeches, or attending memorials.  It is time to allow your feelings to surface and to feel the pride,  the compassion,  the honor and the esteem, the respect and the reverence, and the admiration and gratitude we share with our comrades in uniform.  

   Veterans Day is Paul Kostick of Gilberton who died in Vietnam, and Billie Djygenis of Frackville who died in Korea, and Anthony Damato, Shenandoah, the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, who died in WW2, and even Crispus Attucks, who gave his life at Bunker Hill in 1776, and all those from that fateful day in 1776 to 2002, the American Veteran is still fighting for the freedoms many of us take for granted,  They are also fighting to preserve a world free from tyranny and oppression, free from discord and hate, free from want and fear and free from the cowardice acts of terror that seem to have become an every day occurrence.  This is the essence of which I speak - brave young men and women  - many of whom we have known, who have fought and died that we might live in peace.  They are the true Essence of Veterans Day.  They ARE what gives Veterans Day its sum and substance, its spirit, its Essence.  

   Therefore Brethren, let us never forget their valor, their commitment to duty, their love of country and as we honor their memories and bestow upon them and every one who has or continues to serve America our deepest and most sincere love and respect.  Remember THEY ARE the Essence of Veterans Day.  Brethren you should now be feeling the Essence of which I have spoken, the Essence of Veterans Day, and I ask you, isn’t it an awesome feeling?  

   In closing I would just like to add that this feeling gives me the assurance that America is and will continue to be the great leader among nations.  Duty, Honor, and this great Country of ours, it is truly a great feeling to be an American, God Bless America and I thank God for the American Veteran.

   Thank you Brethren and good evening.

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This item is part of WelcomeHomeSoldier.com: historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.


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