Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Veteran’s Day Remarks
November 11, 2003
My fellow citizens, it is an honor to be here.
Eighty-five years ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns of World War I fell silent. The “war to end all wars” was over.
But wars have not ended. Since that day so long ago, our soldiers have answered the call to service again and again. World War II. Korea. Vietnam. The Persian Gulf. Afghanistan. Iraq. Our soldiers have left knowing they might not return. They have gone because “freedom isn’t free.”
Today we honor all who have served and are serving. There are 670,000 veterans living in Washington state. I want to thank every single one of them. Today is also the anniversary of Washington’s statehood, 114 years ago. Just as our veterans have been dedicated to our state, our state is dedicated to them.
We are one of the best states when it comes to securing federal funds and providing assistance, counseling, and long-term nursing care to our veterans and their families. The sacrifice they have all made deserves no less. And today we devote to celebrating and remembering those sacrifices.
The solemn silence of numberless names carefully carved in somber stone surrounds us. We reflect on the many names by which we have known our soldiers: “GI,” “Yank,” “Flyboy,” “Leatherneck,” “Swabby,” “WACs,” “WAVES” and just plain “Joe.”
And back here at home, of course, we’ve known them by still other names. Names like Dad, Mom, Son, Daughter, Husband, Wife, Brother, Sister, Sweetheart, Friend.
They have come from all ethnic backgrounds and religions. Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Pacific-Americans, and Native Americans; Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims.
Each of those groups distinguished themselves. Each helped secure our nation’s freedom. Groups who have faced discrimination at home but have answered the call of duty to protect our freedom.
During WWII, African Americans lived in segregated communities. That did not stop the brave African American men who fought in World War II and formed the Tuskegee Airmen to help liberate Europe.
Japanese American families were interned behind barbed wire and armed guard. That did not stop the courageous Japanese Americans who formed the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in American Military History.
Those veterans left segregation and injustice at home to serve our nation because they believed in the essential goodness and destiny of our nation.
All of our veterans have lived lives abruptly interrupted by service—separated from family, sometimes leaving promising careers that could never be resumed, giving up
educational dreams that could never be realized. Why? Because duty comes first. Sacrifice in the name of our country and our way of life comes first.
These sacrifices are humbling, and make us very proud to be Americans, and very proud of our veterans.
My own father, Jimmy Locke, was a sergeant in World War II. He was among the many who went ashore on the beaches of Normandy. Growing up, I was taught that freedom sometimes comes at a high price. I am thankful for those lessons.
I grew up revering those who sacrifice as my father did. Sacrifice so that the rest of us can enjoy the safety, security, comfort, and freedoms we too often take for granted.
It is an honor to be a part of this ceremony. Our veterans ask very little of the country they served. But we owe them so much. Today it is our turn to pay our deepest respects to all of our veterans.
Fifty years after the “longest day” at Normandy, President Clinton returned. I would like to close with his closing words there to all our veterans:
The flame of your youth became freedom’s lamp, and we see its light reflected still in the faces of your children and grandchildren.
We commit ourselves, as you did, to keep that lamp burning for those who will follow. You completed your mission . . . But the mission of freedom goes on. The battle continues. The “longest day” is not yet over.
God bless you, and God bless America.