Today, at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 2011, we pause to honor America’s Veterans and celebrate their contributions to our way of life. Few have given more to our nation than the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces in peace and in war.
Generation after generation—from Bunker Hill and Bennington to Baghdad and Abbottabad—protected, defended, and preserved the principles and ideals that define our democracy.
Across that remarkable sweep of history, today’s America was shaped at Lexington and Concord, Antietam and Gettysburg, in the skies over Midway, on the beaches of Normandy, in winter’s grip at Chosin Reservoir, in the heat of Ia Drang Valley, from the Persian Gulf into Afghanistan and Iraq by those who wore our nation’s uniforms.
More than 22 million living veterans today embody our exceptional character and values as a people — each a line in our nation’s history, but together many chapters towards today’s future.
The Department of Veterans Affairs fulfills its obligation to serve veterans, their families, and survivors of the fallen by living a set of core values defining who we are as an organization: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence—I CARE. Veterans trust that we will live these values, every day, in our medical facilities, our benefits offices, and our national cemeteries. And VA is committed to serving them. We are privileged to provide the very best in compassionate and quality care and services, delivered by our more than 300,000 employees. As we honor and celebrate the contributions of all of our nation’s veterans, we take special pride in those veterans who work here at VA — more than 100,000 of us — bringing to our mission the skills, knowledge, attributes, experiences, and unwavering commitment to the well-being of our fellow veterans. Take a moment and visit VA’s Flicker site to see our photographs and snapshots from earlier times in uniform. You can access those photos today at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/VeteransAffairs/sets/72157627830104759/
I am privileged to join all my VA colleagues in saluting the service and honoring the sacrifices of the special men and women who walk the halls of our hospitals and clinics, offices and Vet Centers each day. God bless our veterans. And may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.
• Shinseki is the U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs