Thank you very, very much. Welcome to the great City of Baltimore. Welcome to the State of Maryland. Welcome to the original land of the free and home of the brave. This is very sacred ground.
I was just talking to some of our visitors and I was recounting to them what my 10 year old son said to me the last time we were out here. He said, “You know Dad, this is my favorite place in all of Baltimore.” And I said, “You know what Will? It’s my favorite place too.” And for those of you that are visiting here, maybe for the first time, I think you’ll realize what a special place this is.
Maryland is a State that is one of the original 13, and we have a very, very proud history of stepping up for our nation’s defense, especially in times of great adversity. That’s what the Maryland 400 did when they saved Washington’s Army from annihilation in Brooklyn. That’s what was done here in the defense of Baltimore and Fort McHenry.
And 60 percent of those that defended Baltimore here in 1814 against this huge force were immigrants. One out of five of the defenders in Baltimore were black citizens of a country that was still a slaveholding country, although we aspired to freedom. What must have been in the hearts of those immigrants, of those citizens black and white, as that army came down on them at this fort?
Well, we think it was an awareness, that same awareness that each and every one of you has, who have given to our country freely, serving in our Guard. We think that they had the same thing that you have – an appreciation that we are all part of something much larger than ourselves, that we are blessed to have been born in the strongest and freest republic ever crafted by man on the planet, and that its tomorrows are not inevitable. Instead, they are secured by men and women who are willing to step up, especially in times of great adversity, because that’s what defines the character of a nation.
To all of you who have traveled from so far to be with us today, I do want to thank you. We are delighted and we are really, really honored to be able to host you here. I know I speak for General Adkins when I say welcome to General Umbarger, and Maryland’s own General Blum. We are very, very proud of what all of you do for us.
As Governor of Maryland, I never miss a deployment ceremony, and I am also sure to never, ever miss the welcome home ceremonies. I also have the sad occasion to go to other ceremonies, when we bring our soldiers home to rest.
And what was true on those ramparts in 1814 is still true today. It is the people from small places, close to home, who love their neighbors, who love their families, who love their country – this is the spirit of our country. This is why we are enabled to continue to bear that title of American citizen. It’s because of all of you. And we’re so very, very glad to welcome you to Maryland.
We hope you have a terrific weekend. Thank you so much for what you do to defend our country.