Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Tahoma National Cemetery Support Group
November 11, 1999
VETERANS’ DAY ADDRESS
Roger Welles, Master of Ceremonies, thank you for that kind introduction. I am highly honored to speak here today. I want to thank Sandy Noguez, Director of Tahoma National Cemetery, for the continued management of this facility, and I’d like to thank George Edmundson and the cemetery support group for putting on this event. I’d also like to thank John King, the Director of Washington State’s Department of Veteran Affairs for the great work he and his staff do. Thanks to Eastlake High School Band for that lovely prelude, and Boy Scout Troop 506 for leading the pledge of allegiance.
Today is a very special day.
At 11:00 am, eighty-one years ago, the guns of World War I’s victors and the guns of the vanquished fell silent and Washington State celebrated her 29th birthday. Since then our soldiers have been called to serve in the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and the Gulf War.
Today, we pay homage to the thousands and thousands of men and women who sought to defend our country and our allies—the thousands of men and women who devoted themselves to the preservation of our freedom. Today, across the state—from the Puget Sound to the Palouse—our citizens are gathering to honor our great veterans, living and dead, who were willing to lay down their lives to keep America The Land Of The Free.
Who were those soldiers in uniform? They were called “Yank,” and “GI,” “Flyboy,” and just plain “Joe.” But here at home, we had other names for them. Like Mom, Dad, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Husband, Wife.
My dad, Jimmy Locke, was a staff sergeant in World War II in the Army’s 5th Armored Division and served in the European Theater, maintaining supplies to troops during the German offensive. I am very proud of my father, and I’m humbled by the sacrifices he and the rest of our veterans made for our country. Too many people of my generation and younger generations take our freedom and prosperity for granted: freedoms preserved and prosperity made possible by sacrifices of our veterans.
Each war is different. Every soldier’s experience is different. But there is a commonality among all veterans. All veterans made tremendous sacrifices to preserve our democratic way of life. Each of you expressed your willingness to lay down your life for America the first day you put on your uniform. It is that courageous sacrifice and love for our country that we cherish and honor today.
Nearly 700,000 veterans live in Washington State today, and over 9,000 Washingtonians gave their lives. Let’s have a moment of silence in honor of those soldiers who did not come home.
(Moment of silence)
Thank you. I often wonder how to best honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedom. And I think perhaps the best way to honor them is to live our own lives to the fullest; to recognize that our lives are gifts: sacred and meaningful. And let us, in our every day lives, give as freely to our neighbors, our friends, our children as you, our veterans, gave to us. And to remember every day the sacrifices those veterans who did come home have made.
Walter Bagehot wrote that “War generates certain virtues; not the highest, but what may be called the preliminary virtues, as valor, veracity, the spirit of obedience, and the habit of discipline. Any of these, and of others like them, when possessed by a nation will give them a military advantage, and make them more likely to stay in the race of nations.”
Thank you, veterans. For your valor, veracity, spirit and discipline.
In closing, today, I’d like to read you a poem that’s posted on a website created by and for Vietnam Veterans. It’s a place where veterans share stories and thoughts over the Internet. The author of this poem is unknown. It’s called Eulogy for a Veteran.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
So let us not cry for the veterans who are here with us only in spirit. Let us instead weep with joy that the 700,000 veterans that live in Washington today were returned to us. Let us weep for joy that our fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and siblings were returned to us. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.