"They are men and women who, for many reasons, donned the uniform of our country to stand between freedom and tyranny; to take up the sword of justice in defense of the liberties we hold dear; to preserve peace and to calm the winds of war.
Your mothers and fathers, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your neighbors, the shop owners in your community, your teachers, your favorite athlete, a Hollywood star, and your political leaders... each one could be a veteran.
But as much as they may differ by gender, race, age, national origin, or profession, they share a common love for our great nation; a love great enough to put their very lives on the line, if need be, to guarantee the way of life we enjoy today, and to secure that way of life for tomorrow's generations.
The title “veteran” must be earned. It is a title endowed by a grateful nation on citizens whose shoulders were broad enough to carry the weight of our common defense.
It is a title that speaks of courage and sacrifice in the face of mortal danger.
It is a title that speaks of compassion and heartbreak in the wake of the terrible cost of war.
And it is a title that speaks of love of country, and of a belief in America’s goodness, and our strength.
In each of America’s struggles, heroes in uniform emerged to inspire and spur us on to victory. Our veterans’ steadfast resolve to stand and fight for the American way of life is a constant reminder that the righteousness of our destiny overarches the anguish of our losses.
America’s servicemen and women, who became our nation’s veterans when they set their uniforms aside and resumed their civilian lives, distinguished themselves through their willingness to risk life and limb in defense of the freedoms we all cherish.
I am honored and privileged to lead the Cabinet Department that was charged by Abraham Lincoln to redeem our Nation’s debt to liberty’s defenders.
Those who have served our nation in uniform are the best people our society has to offer. We owe them our full support, and our sincerest thanks.
America’s veterans did not shrink from battle; they did not yield to fear; they did not abandon their cause. All too often they paid the ultimate price.
By their example of courage under fire, they raised up a new nation, inspired by the dignity of the common man -- a nation blessed with heroes and heroes’ dreams. That is leadership of the highest quality. That is America’s leadership legacy."