Veterans Day Commemoration

Veterans Day Commemoration
Roseville, California
November 12, 2012

Yesterday in Auburn, the community dedicated a street in honor of local resident Col. Bud Anderson.  Col. Anderson is 90-going-on-51.  He flew 116 fighter combat missions against the Luftwaffe during World War II – including in support of the D-Day Invasion -- shooting down more than 16 German aircraft, saving countless bomber crews and contributing mightily to the destruction of what Churchill called “the foulest and most soul-destroying tyranny in the history of the human race.” 
One and a half million of our World War II veterans are still alive today, and they still have much to teach us.
Bud Anderson, for example, grew up near Newcastle in the 1920’s and 30’s -- an age and a place where uniquely American values of individual responsibility, self-reliance, love of liberty, sense of duty, and love of country were very real, very strong, and inculcated into the very souls of America’s Greatest Generation.

When our nation, and all that it stood for, came under attack by foreign tyrants, that Greatest Generation knew instantly what was at stake and could see clearly what had to be done.

President Roosevelt sounded the clarion call with these words: “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.” 

The whole might and fury of the nation was committed to the cause, and from little towns like Newcastle, courageous young men like Bud Anderson stepped forward – indeed, rushed forward – to defend not only our country, but all that it stands for -- what Lincoln had called the last best hope of mankind.

Today, it is hard to imagine a time when an attack on our country was met with the complete and total resolve of the entire nation – where every citizen set aside their daily lives and indeed devoted themselves to, “absolute victory.”  Because people like Bud Anderson did just that, 3 ½ years later, the enemies of our nation had been utterly vanquished.

Contrast those days with these and you realize how much we owe to the veterans of the wars since then, when our government has failed to support our troops with the full might and fury of the nation, and placed them in harm’s way under increasingly severe constraints to the point where it is costing their lives because they can no longer fight back.

In El Dorado Hills recently, the father of a soldier related the story of a mortar shell that had destroyed the tent where his son was billeted, killing two of his son’s best friends.  His son would have been killed, except that he had just stepped out to send an email home.  They were denied permission to return fire because the mortar came from near a village.

In the four years I have represented this district, we’ve lost two young men to attack by so-called security forces.  Jeremiah McCleery and his best friend were killed in Iraq when an American trained and American armed Iraqi soldier opened fire on them.  Sgt. Sky Mote of El Dorado Hills died this summer when he was ordered to disarm himself just before his Afghan hosts opened fire on him and his group.

At a Veteran’s Day luncheon in Nevada City two years ago, attended by veterans from World War II to Afghanistan, a young man was introduced as recently back from Iraq.  After the program, I had the opportunity to talk with him, and we were also joined by a veteran of Patton’s Third Army, a veteran who had served time in Stalag 17 at the end of the war.

I asked the young Iraqi veteran about the rules of engagement.  A look of relief crossed his face as if to say, “thank God somebody is asking.”  He said, “It’s terrible.  We’re not allowed to fight back.  If we’re fired upon, we’ve got to identify ourselves – at night we have to shine a light, which gives away our position.  If we’re fired upon and the insurgents escape into a mosque – we’re not allowed to pursue them -- that’s considered disrespectful.  A buddy of mine went in after a group and captured them.  They were released.  My buddy was demoted for violating the rules of engagement.”

I turned to the World War II veteran and asked, “What were the rules of engagement in Patton’s Third Army?”  He looked rather blankly for a moment and said, “We didn’t have ‘rules of engagement.’  They told us to kill Germans, and that’s what we did.”

I asked, “If a German squad had escaped into a Church, would you have pursued them?”

He said, “Heavens no!  We would have blown up the Church.”

We have much to learn from the Greatest Generation, and much to make up to the current generation of veterans.

We have this consolation: we still have members of the Greatest Generation among us, and as they can attest, there once existed an American spirit that compelled us to recognize moral imperatives, to destroy absolute evil with absolute victory, and to celebrate American exceptionalism without reservation or hesitation.

We have in these men and women the personification of these uniquely American virtues, a great reminder that they are real.  And we have in them great teachers from whom we can yet summon these virtues in a world that is once again piled high with difficulties at home and abroad.

And let us also never forget, that we have young people among us just back from the bureaucratized, sanitized, politically correct battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, who were willing to sacrifice everything for our country, when our country failed to support them with everything we had.

We have much to do on this Veteran’s Day.  I believe the only way we can adequately thank our veterans is for each of us to highly resolve that we will not rest until we have restored that American spirit that once produced the strongest, most prosperous and most respected Republic in the history of the world.

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