Remarks of Governor David Ige as prepared
November 11, 2016 – Veteran’s Day at the State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, “For the Love of Country, They Served”
Aloha Admiral Harris, Admiral Swift, General O’Shaughnessy, General Logan, respective Flag and General Officers, our State, Federal and County Senior Leaders, our Consulate General Corps, other dignitaries, especially our Veterans and their families who are here today, ladies and gentlemen.
This summer I visited Philadelphia for the first time. As the governor from the nation’s youngest state, I was filled with awe to stand in Independence Hall where the foundational documents of our country were debated and adopted.
For the founding fathers, love of one’s country meant risking their businesses, their families and their lives. There was a very real possibility that they would perish. And because they believed in the vision, they established America’s first military units. These men fought to establish “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” as President Abraham Lincoln so famously noted on the fields of Gettysburg, where tens of thousands of soldiers fought and died to preserve the union.
Like the founding fathers, we love our country because our government recognizes that its citizens have the “unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We love our country because of its abundance of mountains, fields, forests, volcanoes, streams, lakes and ocean shores. We love our country because it is a land of opportunity. We love our country because it is home to family and friends. We love our country because even strangers we’ve never met observe the same principles of constitutional government and are protected by the same laws.
As it has from the beginning, love of country brings with it responsibility. We are called upon to make our country better than it is – to build it and improve it – during peacetime. And we are called upon to defend it in war.
For 240 years, from the Revolutionary War to the current war on terror, men and women have taken up this responsibility by serving in the United States military – defending our country from its enemies, both foreign and domestic. Some served because they were proud of the place they were born and raised and they wanted to protect their home. For this reason, thousands responded after the attack on Pearl Harbor and thousands more joined the service after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In some families, military service is a tradition that has been carried on for generations. Some were drafted and answered the call.
Although there are many reasons someone decides to take the oath, the end-goal is the same, to protect their families and defend our nation. Each who served was part of a community effort that was greater than any individual achievement.
Veterans from Hawaiʻi have participated in battles from Midway to the Rescue of the Lost Battalion, the Chosin Reservoir, the deltas in Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and other conflicts.
We’ve read books and seen movies about their experiences. But unless one has served, he or she wouldn’t really know what their day-to-day experience was like. Deployment and reintegration are harder than most of us can even imagine. Jonathan Kirk Davis, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Sergeant in the United States Marine Corp, has shared his story. He writes:
During deployment, you experience a very, very long period of extended absence from comfort, security, and families. In combat, you are under the constant threat of surprise attack. In the worst case scenario, you actually fight. You might kill people. You might lose friends.
And then you come home. First, we are absolutely elated to come home, see our families, go to our bars. In a way, you are doing things that you have done many times before, but it has been so long that it feels completely foreign to you.
Second, there is residual stress that carries over from a combat deployment. You are suspicious, tightly wound, and easily angered. Your family does things you don’t understand, mostly because they have grown very independent of you. Many confuse this for a feeling that you are unwanted or unneeded, and this makes the returning person very irritable.
Third, there is a long phase where you try to adjust to having your life back. To be honest, it is never the same as before you left. You are changed by the experience of a combat deployment. And everyone else that you care about changes, too. It takes time before everything settles down emotionally. Most people make it through this phase OK, but unfortunately, many don’t.
This description by Sgt. Davis helps us understand the extreme stress of deployment and the heavy pressures of returning to a life that is at once familiar and alien. Our veterans endured all this and more for the love of their country. They fulfilled their responsibilities.
Those of us who have never worn the uniform are now responsible for championing our veterans. We often say we have a duty to our veterans, that we owe them a debt of gratitude. While saying “Thank you for your service” is nice, we must do more. We can listen to their challenges and support their reintegration. Those of us in a position to hire veterans should do so.
By working together with our federal partners and the counties, we are starting to see a decline in the numbers of our homeless veterans. We must keep working to continue this trend. Most importantly, we can live in a way that honors their service – by trying to make our home a better place and living in a way that is consistent with the values of our founding fathers.
This year we will observe the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a day that changed Hawaiʻi, and the world, forever. Although the number of veterans who served on December 7, 1941 is dwindling, we will gather to celebrate their bravery, acknowledge the sacrifices they made and express our gratitude. In many ways, they and their comrades helped shape who we are today.
After the war, the veterans of the Greatest Generation laid down their arms and began building for the future. Like my father and father-in-law, they returned to establish successful careers in public service, business, education and every other occupation that contributes to our community. In the most difficult of times, they came together to build our state and our nation. They helped rebuild the war-torn countries that had once been enemies. And they formed political and commercial relationships that helped usher in the Pacific Era.
Today, we take direction from their example. If we act with courage, if we put our best selves forward, and if we work together, we can solve some of the biggest challenges facing our state, nation and the global community. This is our responsibility. We owe it to our veterans who have served and sacrificed on our behalf.
Hawaiʻi’s veterans have been “first to fight for the right” in the Army, and put to sea shouting “anchors aweigh” in the Navy. They’ve fought “our country’s battles, in the air, on land and sea” as part of the Marine Corps, and flown “off into the wild blue yonder” with the Air Force. And the Coast Guard has kept us safe “from Aztec shore to Arctic zone, to Europe and Far East.”
We honor the veterans of the United States Armed Services today and every day. To our veterans and their families, we say, “Mahalo for your service.”