30th Anniversary of the Maryland Vietnam Memorial
May 25, 2009
Thank you all very, very much. It is a great honor to be here with all of you. This memorial really looks beautiful – my hat’s off to all those who make it so.
I want to recognize President Ed Chow of the Maryland State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, as well as Fred Shinbur, Chairman of the Maryland Veterans Commission.
And I’m especially honored and humbled to be here – overlooking the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner and the defense of Baltimore, 20 years after this very important memorial was built – with heroes who’ve witnessed some of the most defining moments in our country’s history. So on behalf of the citizens of our State, I want to thank all of you – all our Vietnam Veterans for your service to our country.
The Legacy of our Veterans
Today and every day, we remember not only your generation, but the many generations of men and women who have stepped up in the defense of our nation – especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in peace, and be able to raise our children in a world which we hope is a more compassionate, more peaceful, more secure place.
My father was a veteran of the Second World War. He flew 33 missions over Japan in a B-24 Liberator. On this day, and on Veterans Day, I find myself humming The Fanfare for the Common Man. Those common men – and I might add, women – who did uncommon things.
Lt. Governor Brown and I never miss a deployment ceremony for our National Guard, and unfortunately we have been to many. And I am sure to never miss the welcome home ceremonies – we have had quite a few of those as well, including one yesterday to which everyone returned home safely, thank God. But we have the sad occasion to go to other gatherings, when we bring our soldiers home to rest.
And at every single ceremony, I am struck by the courage, the fortitude, and the commitment of the people that I see from small places, close to home… who love their neighbors, who love their families, who love the children that they raise to serve their country, and who indeed love their country.
I saw it yesterday, when I sat down with the citizen soldiers of the 224th ASMC, who’ve recently come home from Iraq, as they sat and mingled with about 100 veterans from Maryland who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
What did they have in common? I think that they had in common a belief in the dignity of every individual. A belief in their own responsibility to advance the common good and to defend it. And an understanding that there’s a unity to spirit and to matter, and what we do in our lifetimes does matter. And that, indeed, God wants every partial victory.
Each and every person here who has served their country understands what so many generations of Americans have known before you. 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 human hands, and that its tomorrow’s are not inevitable. We have to defend them, we have to hope for them. And from time to time, we also have to fight for them.
One of the greatest responsibilities that any of us in public life have is to be there for our military families and veterans – especially in these difficult times.
We know that many of you, when you were deployed 30 years ago, came home and did not find a country as willing to serve and support you as you were willing to serve and support her.
But it’s because of your experiences that I’d like to believe that we, as a country, have learned.
Meanwhile, you continue to fight on the home front on behalf of our newest veterans, urging all of us in elected office to stand up – especially in tough times – to do what must be done to support our servicemen and women as they face challenges when they return home. Challenges including multiple combat tours, Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We were reminded of that recently when Maryland’s own son, Private First Class Michael Yates, Jr., was killed by a very distraught fellow American soldier.
At a time when the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Veterans Affairs is having trouble reaching out and giving timely services to many of our veterans, working together as Marylanders, we have expanded behavioral health services benefits to cover all Maryland’s veterans.
There are those who said in these tough economic times when we’re cutting budgets, isn’t it the role of the federal government to actually provide these services? Lt. Governor Brown and I said no, it’s our responsibility as Marylanders and as Americans to provide those services to our neighbors.
Together, we have established the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund and the Military Service-Related Loan Program to provide grants and loans to our veterans and their families.
Together, we’re helping our military families and their children transition more seamlessly from one public school system to another whenever they move.
And together, we’ve passed several pieces of legislation that will make college education more affordable for more of our military families, including a scholarship fund created specifically for returning veterans.
As I conclude, let me say thank you to all of our veterans who have given a gift to our country that we can never hope to repay – serving where you were asked, saving lives, and delivering hope to those who needed it the most. What a great American once called “as example of individual liberty fused with common effort.”
In the rising of the sun and at it’s going down, we will remember you, and we will remember them. And as today we play in our own hearts The Fanfare for the Common Man, let us also celebrate the proof of what their mortal frailty was capable of achieving. Thank you.