“Freedom isn’t free.” This anonymous quote, far more than a bumper sticker slogan, so directly states the reality that our liberty comes at an often-steep price.
In two great holidays every year, we remember those who’ve paid that higher price for us all. Memorial Day honors the over one million Americans for whom the price was the highest. Veterans Day, today, venerates all who’ve worn the uniform.
These are our opportunities to remember, reflect and express our humble gratitude to those who’ve served; it is the very least we can do. So today I join all fellow Americans in thanking each and all of our veterans from the bottom of our hearts. Mahalo!
But Veterans Day is about far more than just a collective annual pause in our everyday lives. It is also about recommitting ourselves to the charge Abraham Lincoln laid down in his Second Inaugural Address: to “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan”. This obligation demands the same vigilance, day to day, year to year, generation to generation, as does that liberty our veterans have faithfully defended.
We have long sought to meet our obligation through assisting our vets and their families with good education, health care, jobs, homes and final resting places. The GI Bill, Veterans Administration health care system and TRICARE For Life, veterans assistance in business and housing, and veterans cemeteries have formed the foundation of our commitment.
How are we doing on this Veterans Day and where do we need to go? First, a few facts.
Today, over 23 million Americans are veterans, almost two million of them women. Roughly a third served in each of the pre-Vietnam era (World War II, Korean War, peacetime), Vietnam era, and post-Vietnam era (peacetime and the Gulf wars). Our Hawai