Veteran’s Day Commemoration Ceremony
Maryland Historical Society
November 11, 2008
Thank you very, very much. It’s both humbling and awe-inspiring to be here with all of you, some of Maryland’s most courageous sons and daughters who’ve served our nation in such a significant way.
I want to thank everyone from the Maryland Historical Society, as well as General Jim Adkins, who’s been an incredible partner and advocate for our veterans and for those who are currently serving.
My father, who was part of the greatest generation, flew 33 missions over Japan in a B-24 Liberator.
Growing up, he shared with me some stories of the tremendous challenges that he faced… and the sacrifices made by his brothers and sisters in the armed forces, who chose to risk everything to protect us here at home.
Our nation is built upon those sacrifices – it is built upon the generations of brave men and women who squared their shoulders against the forces of fear and tyranny so that we could continue to enjoy the blessings of this nation and our way of life.
And since our earliest days as a people of this great nation, Marylanders have willingly and freely accepted that challenge.
You know, Maryland is known as the Old Line State. Some people think that comes from the Mason Dixon Line, but it actually dates back to 1776, less than two months after the Declaration of Independence, when Washington’s army was nearing annihilation in an indefensible position at Brooklyn Heights. They were faced with overwhelming odds and the British army – the most powerful military force in the world – was closing in around them.
But 400 Marylanders that made up the Maryland Line stepped up against those overwhelming odds and ran into the breach in defense of our nation. Today, there’s a plaque over the mass graves of those citizen soldiers that reads simply this – “In honor of the Maryland 400, who on this battlefield on August 27, 1776, saved the American Army.”
Those soldiers fought under a flag that had thirteen stars and thirteen stripes. The stars were arranged in a circle, and there was one star in the center. That star was us – that central state, that middle state, that state around which all other states rally, especially in times of great adversity.
And what must have been in the hearts of those 400 citizen soldiers? Well, we think it was an awareness – that same awareness that each and every one of you has who have given of yourselves to our country.
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 tomorrow’s 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.
And just like you’ve always been there for us – through times of turmoil and tranquility, through famine, flood and war – we are here for you.
Our Administration is committed to doing everything we can in service to you and your brothers and sisters in arms who are returning home from overseas today. Together, we’re providing new funding to help veterans get better access to quality behavioral health services and to scholarship programs. In addition, we’re working together to help veteran-owned small businesses grow and thrive, and we’re strengthening our safety net for those who are unable to find work in these challenging economic times.
From our troops that are far away from home right now, those who are in harm’s way for our sake… to the generations that paved the way before them to make our nation what it is today… the common thread throughout the stories we’ve heard today 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.
Thank you all for taking part in the fight to preserve our freedom, and for building a better future for our children and our grandchildren.