Today, we gather as communities across Oregon, a diverse tapestry of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, to honor the heroes of this nation—our veterans. On this Veterans Day, we pause to express our deepest gratitude to those who have stood on the front lines, whether on foreign shores or on home soil, to protect the freedoms and values we hold dear.
Each year, our nation sets aside Veterans Day to remember all the men and women who have defended our liberty through their honorable military service. American cities big and small celebrate with ceremonies across the nation to honor their service and sacrifice. The value that we as Oregonians and Americans place on honoring and showing gratitude toward those who have served and sacrificed is profound.
Seventy five percent of today’s veterans in Oregon fought and served during wartime in significant and historical battlegrounds such as — Normandy, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Vietnam, Kuwait, Bagdad, and Kabul, to name a few. They served bravely to preserve the fragile democracy and freedoms afforded to our nation, and thankfully, most returned home to continue to build their lives among families, friends and loved ones. Still a quarter of Oregon’s veterans remind us that even when the United States is in a time of peace, the men and women of our military remain committed, trained and ready – continuing to preserve our democracy.
Today, we gather to honor and thank veterans of all eras of military service for their sacrifice to this nation. Together we are the fabric of our nation, committing to an ideal that this land is free because of the brave.
Regrettably, throughout history, some of our nation’s military policies have been discriminatory, denying certain service members the full enjoyment of the individual freedoms cherished by all Americans. Despite this discrimination, these courageous individuals exhibited unwavering commitment to defending liberty and were resolute in their dedication to preserving freedom, both at home and abroad.
Upon returning from these campaigns, the majority of all veterans sought nothing more than the opportunity to resume their lives, content in the knowledge that they had fulfilled their duties with unwavering dedication and integrity.
Those who have experienced the harsh realities of close combat understand that war, any war, represents the failure of diplomacy. This failure compels free nations to take up arms, defending their freedom and that of their neighbors against those who seek to oppress them and extinguish any hope of individual liberty and freedom.
The relatively brief history of the United States has shown that while we are a nation that seeks peace, when we are called to engage in conflict, we do so with remarkable courage and skill, rivaling the valor and determination of any military force in history.
When the fighting is done and these men and women return home, they do so as Veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It is a title worn proudly by those who did their duty in service to this nation. The benefits extended to these veterans by a grateful nation is a matter of national public policy and should never be taken for granted.
It is the duty of each generation of veterans to preserve the benefits we have earned and to ensure those benefits for the next generation of American men and women who have earned the honorable title of veteran.
Veterans Day was founded on the day of the Armistice of World War I. It was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that the guns of war fell silent, marking the end of what was then believed to be the “war to end all wars.” A ceaseless commitment to peace and understanding among nations was born.
While the world has witnessed the passage of time and the emergence of new challenges, the essence of Veterans Day remains unchanged. It is a day to celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their unwavering patriotism, love of country, and their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the greater good.
However, it is crucial that we don’t limit our tribute to mere words and ceremonies. Our commitment to veterans extends far beyond the boundaries of a single day. It is not enough to merely say “thank you.” Rather, it is the fulfillment of our duty to ensure that every veteran receives the care and support they have rightfully earned. They are not asking for handouts; they are seeking the well-deserved support that comes from a grateful nation.
Taking care of our veterans also means taking care of those who care for them. While veterans wear the uniform, their families also serve. It is our duty to support these families and recognize their sacrifices.
Today, I encourage every Oregonian to take a moment of silence to reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans and their families and especially those service members who did not return home. Let us take a moment to honor and pay respect to those who gave their lives in service to this country, in service of freedom, and in service of a more peaceful world. We remember their sacrifice, their valor, and their grace. For while we visit monuments of stone, we must never forget that each of the names forever etched in granite — those known and unknown — represent a precious, valiant life.
Our veterans, regardless of their life’s journey, continue to dedicate themselves to building a stronger and more perfect nation. That commitment, to a greater cause, is what makes America exceptional.
We celebrate not only the history of our veterans but also their unwavering dedication to our nation’s founding ideals. Our veterans represent the very best of our country, and this day reminds us to strive to be better as individuals, as a community, and as a nation.
As long as we remember — their sacrifices and service are not in vain.
God bless our service members, veterans, their families, and God bless the United States of America.
-Dr. Nakeia Council Daniels
Interim Director, Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Dr. Nakeia Council Daniels, a veteran of the United States Army, currently serves as the Interim Director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA) overseeing agency operations, ensuring the availability and access of vital veteran services and programs for nearly 300,000 veterans and their families across the state.