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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Denis R. McDonough

Veterans Day Commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA
November 11, 2022


Jack [McManus, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America], thank you very, very much.

Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff; Secretary Austin and teammates from the cabinet; most of all, Veterans, your families, caregivers, survivors—good morning, everybody. Thank you for joining our country’s annual Veterans Day celebration.

Today is a day to honor Veterans; to remember all that they have done for our nation—for each of us; to reflect on those heroes still Missing in Action—heroes whom we miss, we love, long for, and hope to see come home, and soon; and recognize that when Veterans served, their families, their caregivers, survivors sacrificed right alongside with them.

And Veterans Day is something more. It’s a call to action, for each of us, to serve Vets every bit as well as they have served us—on Veterans Day, indeed, every day. Because as President Biden has said—and reminded us again this morning—Veterans are the very backbone of this country. They put profit and self-interest aside. They put their lives on the line so that the highest ideals of this nation, our core values, might continue.

And the thing is, Veterans don’t only keep those ideals alive by serving our country in uniform and fighting our nation’s wars. They also do it long after the last bullets of war have been fired by serving with steadfast courage and selflessness right here at home.

Think about it. When our country needed someone to finally break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, it was Lieutenant Jack Robinson who did it, with his talent only exceeded by his courage, discipline, and determination.

When our country needed to win the space race, it was Lieutenant JG Neil Armstrong who planted his foot on the moon in that giant leap for this nation, and for all mankind.

When our country needed to heal after Vietnam, it was Corporal Jan Scruggs who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and helped open the nation’s hearts to the heroic service of Jack and his fellow Vietnam Vets.

When our country needed for the first time to embrace the needs and challenges of disabled American kids, it was World War II Veteran Dr. Samuel Kirk, the “father of special education,” who led that historic change.

And when we needed to be educated on the effects of toxic exposure on the battlefield, Specialist-4 Kelly Kennedy told human stories of suffering service members, Veterans, and families so we would not forget.

Those stories, those Vets—Robinson, Armstrong, Scruggs, Kirk, Kennedy—those are the Vets you already know. But there are many more Vets just like them whose names we may not know, but whose impact resonates in every community across the country.

You see, when the country needs something difficult done, when we need to do the hard thing, the right thing, so often its Veterans who answer the call. Whether defending our nation overseas, or strengthening the fabric of our communities here at home, their honorable service, your honorable service in uniform sets the example for the rest of the country.

They’re the caretakers of our national ethos, that deep and abiding sense of purpose they learned in serving—their camaraderie, their determination, their sense of teamwork that made them stronger, together, in combat and, now, in their communities.

That's exactly what we need today. Camaraderie. Truth. Togetherness. True service. True patriotism. Because we are, indeed, all stronger when we’re together, when we’re one. Simply put, through their service, their selflessness, Veterans teach us, remind us, what it truly means to be an American. It’s something all of us—each of us—can learn from. And for that, we are forever in your debt.

Madam Vice President, last year at the Celebration of America you reinforced that ethos that Veterans exemplify. You encouraged us, as you said, to “believe in what we can do—together.” And with your and President Biden’s leadership, your and his tireless advocacy, this country, together, is doing so much for Veterans.

We’re grateful for your leadership, for your unrelenting advocacy on behalf of Veterans, their families, their caregivers, their survivors.  

With that, it is my great honor to introduce the Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris.