Tonight I had the honor of speaking to American heroes – veterans who had gathered in Newark Delaware to express gratitude to America’s POW/MIA. It was a great privilege to meet comrades from the Korean and Vietnam wars.
First of all, I want to thank the veterans assembled here tonight for putting together this outstanding tribute to America’s prisoners of war and those still missing in action. It is a wonderful event and I thank you for allowing me to be a small part of it.
I’ve been in the military for more than 29 years, as both an enlisted man in the Army, and now an officer in the Air Force. I’ve noticed that at this point in my career, I tend to look back more often than I did when I was a much younger man.
When I reflect on my military career it always comes back to this: I love the military. There are two very good reasons why and I hope my comrades, the veterans assembled here tonight will agree with me – what makes the profession of arms a great vocation is first our mission is to defend the greatest nation the world has ever seen, the United States. Yes, America is exceptional and I don’t care what a cracked communist KGB agent in Russia has to say on that subject.
But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, what makes the American military great is the relationships we build. It is our people – the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen that make up our forces – that truly makes our military an incredible team. It is their dedication, patriotism, and incredible spirit that inspire me. There is no other organization in the world that can take citizens from disparate backgrounds, different economic circumstances, different regions, different races, different religions, etc. – and forge them into a cohesive team dedicated to a single mission: Defend this land we love.
Only the military can build such a team. Only the military can take strangers and make them brothers and sisters willing to lay down their lives for one another and our nation. It is remarkable. It is powerful. Yes, in the military we love our country. But we also love each other. Our shared experience in the defense of this land has made us different – and I thank God for it.
It is because of this love born of mutual respect and shared sacrifice that we today celebrate and honor the remarkable POW/MIAs of our nation. We honor those who faced the brutality of prison – who faced the cruelty of our enemies – and did so with honor and dignity. Our comrades who, to quote Churchill, faced down our enemy and simply said “go ahead and do your worst; we will do our best.” These Americans were our best and they are our best.
Likewise, today we honor those missing in action. It is not unusual in the fog and friction of war, for some to be classified as missing in action – this has been true from the American revolution through our efforts in the Persian Gulf. However, it grieves us as a force and it grieves us as a people because we do not have a full accounting of the fate of our fellow warriors. Our military, forged together from all walks of life and all corners of our great nation, will never rest until a full account of the fate of all our comrades is completed. We cannot and will not forget because they are a part of our nation’s soul – and our souls cannot find rest until we have accounted for our countrymen because they are a part of us and we love them.
Our sorrow is particularly acute with regard to the MIAs of the Korean and Vietnam wars. For in both of these conflicts, when war ended and hostilities no longer remained, our barbaric foes did precious little to help us account for those missing in action. So, our nation, our military, and most importantly families, are still left wondering about the fates of those missing in action.
Today we honor the missing because we know how difficult their road was; in many cases they faced the enemy alone. We are standing up and we are saying again proudly, we will not forget. To our MIAs we say you are not forgotten. We will not rest; we will not give up. Because we know in our hearts that you did not rest and you did not give up.
Their fates are now known only to God but their valor and courage are known to all. We know as a team – we know as a military, that this is not what we wanted for them, because we know in our hearts that we love them as our fellow warriors.
In closing, on this 34th annual POW/MIA day – let us renew the effort. Let us never forget and let us say thank you to America’s prisoners of war and to those missing in action. May God, the author of freedom, bless you and may He guide our efforts to honor your sacrifices.
We will never forget.
Copyright © 2013 cjcheetham