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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Veterans Day Ceremony, Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn

November 11, 2017
Veterans Day 2017

Veterans Day Ceremony at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn
I’d like to begin this Veterans day by travelling back to the day after September 11th, 2001.  I want to pause for a moment, and ask you to remember what you felt as the sun rose that morning.
I don’t mean the shock or horror or outrage.  There was something far more important, when we sensed our country was under attack and in great danger.  
I mean the intense patriotism, the national unity, and the sense of absolute purpose that each of us felt in the aftermath of that attack.  You remember what it was like to drive down the street that day: every house flew the American flag.  Every American was determined to do whatever was necessary to confront and defeat the powers that had sponsored, encouraged and produced the attacks on our country and our countrymen.
Remember what it was like in the aftermath of that attack.  There were no Republicans or Democrats in those days that followed – there were only Americans united in a common purpose with an intensity and determination that I think surprised every one of us.
I raise the point on this Veterans’ Day to remind us all that the American spirit that has preserved and protected our nation – that first showed itself on the Lexington Commons in 1775 and has ever continued to defend our freedoms – is just under the surface of our national discourse – waiting only to be summoned.    
This is the day we set aside to honor those among us in whom that American spirit burns just a little brighter; whose devotion to our nation has compelled them to leave the safety of hearth and home, to postpone or even to forsake civilian pleasures and rewards simply because they know there are dangers out there that have not gone away and that their country needs them.
We come here first to draw inspiration from the spirit and patriotism of our veterans.  By honoring them, I think we aspire to be more like them.
We come here to express our gratitude to this American band of brothers.  More meaningful and more profound than any of the speeches given on this day is the simple presence of each of you who have come here for no other purpose than to pay honor and express gratitude to our veterans.
Just 1.3 million Americans out of a population of 321 million serve today in the armed services.  That means that just four tenths of one percent of our population wakes up every morning with one goal in mind: to protect the other 99.6 percent of us.  Only 7.3 percent – seven among every hundred of us – have ever done so.    
Winston Churchill’s ode to the Royal Air Force rings clearly when you consider those figures: “never was so much owed by so many to so few.”
What do we owe them?
In the field, we owe them the full might, fury and resources of our nation.  
When they return, we owe it to them to assure the time they lost, the careers they postponed, the family lives they sacrificed, the wounds they sustained – all on behalf of our nation – are fully compensated as they return to civilian life.  
Some have come home with life-changing injuries with which they will do battle every waking moment for the rest of their lives.   These wounded warriors often go home to struggle nobly and often alone to do even the most basic tasks we take for granted.  In a sense, they never leave the field of combat, and they need to know that their countrymen will never forget that and will always, as Lincoln said, “care for he that has bourn the battle.”  
Our veterans deserve better than to be stuck in a dysfunctional bureaucracy when they are seeking care and help.  Since January, the House has passed 43 bills to reform the Veterans Administration – strengthening protections for whistle blowers, making it simpler to discipline or fire employees for unsatisfactory performance; and expanding and streamlining the VA Choice program so veterans can receive health services from local providers of their choice without being held captive by the VA bureaucracy.  
And finally, let us also remember that our fallen veterans left behind grieving families that will never recover from their loss.   Every member of these Gold Star families is a veteran, too, whose enlistment never ends and whose wounds never heal.
But most of all, we owe it to each of them to become more like them – to recognize how good our country is, how exceptional are its founding principles, how extraordinary is its Constitution, how sacred are its symbols, and how irreplaceable it is to the highest aspirations of human civilization.   
If we will do that – whatever the trials and tribulations of the present – all will be well and we will have honorably discharged our debt to the band of brothers who have defended our American legacy with their very lives.