The Honorable Garry Smith
November 8, 2015
Thank you so much for allowing me to speak with you today. This is simply the most meaningful way possible to look forward to our Veterans’ Day holiday that’s coming up later in the week. To help us get in the proper frame of mind to celebrate one of the most important holidays on the American calendar we can turn to a poetic and quite appropriate comparison that Karl von Clausewitz, one of history’s most famous writers on military matters, included in his masterpiece, On War. He wrote, “Like an obelisk towards which the principal streets of a town converge, the strong will of a proud spirit stands prominent and commanding in the middle of the Art of War.” That is truly what brings us together on Veterans’ Day. We converge here to acknowledge the towering spirit and strength of the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces. Here in our state I do believe that military service is given pride of place. The valor and commitment of military service occupies a central position in the hearts and minds of South Carolinians. Our men and women in uniform commonly report that they feel welcomed and respected by the surrounding community when they are assigned to duty stations in this state. It’s something that’s remembered years later when decisions are made about where to spend retirement years. Our mild climate no doubt encourages retired military personnel to relocate to our state, but I’d like to think those decisions also have to do with a welcoming climate that we South Carolinians make, ourselves, by celebrating and revering military service. Military service is a centerpiece of American ideals, in general, but I think that is particularly true here in South Carolina.
In a speech he delivered in the nation’s capital while serving as President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson observed, “There is no question what the roll of honor in America is. The roll of honor consists of the names of men who have squared their conduct by ideals of duty.” That is the honor roll that we are paying tribute to on Veterans’ Day 2015 roughly a century after these words were spoken. It’s an honor roll composed of all the brave men and women whose conduct has served as a resounding answer to the call of duty. These are the people who have converted ideals into action– quite often the most dramatic, dangerous action imaginable. It is an extensive honor roll that covers a span of many miles and many years, from the World Wars, to the conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam, and, more recently, to conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Greater Middle East. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to each and every name on that proud list. Many are not able to answer a roll call today because they sacrificed everything to safeguard our liberty and democratic way of life. We take care to remember them and value their living legacy. On Veterans’ Day we are especially grateful for all those on America’s roll of honor who are with us here today. It is our time to give thanks to all of these brave men and women for their military service and for all the contributions they have made after their time in uniform.
Decades ago, President Calvin Coolidge left us some words of warning when he said, “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” Thankfully, I believe that is a danger that America is not yet facing. We are certainly not likely to forget our defenders while we’ve been witnessing example after example of the men and women of our armed services risking life and limb in order to protect the United States and to allow others to share in the freedom we enjoy here. In recent years, the courage, dedication, and skill of our defenders have been showcased for all to see. What’s more, we are, each day, welcoming our defenders back from their tours of duty abroad to join the ranks of our veterans. Having distinguished themselves during their time in uniform, they are bringing their talent and commitment to bear upon civilian life, making new valuable contributions here at home. This year, the people of South Carolina also have fresh and powerful memories of military valor that don’t have anything to do with fighting foreign adversaries in faraway lands, but instead involve battles with the forces of nature that were waged right in our own neighborhoods. During October’s historic floods, we saw our National Guard troops and other brave men and women in uniform engage in amazing acts of heroism. They rescued our neighbors from raging flood waters. They helped to feed and shelter those left homeless in the disaster. They assisted us as we repaired our shattered roadways and restored such basic necessities as clean drinking water. We are profoundly thankful for their great skill and tireless dedication. The spirit of Veterans’ Day is clearly alive and well. We are grateful to our veterans for all they have done to protect this nation and for all they continue to do, every single day, to make this country great.