Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld released his Veterans Day message to service members Nov. 9:
My father volunteered to serve in the Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor
. At 38, he was well beyond draft age, but he wanted to serve. When he passed away some years ago, I found a letter in his personal papers that he had received from then Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, who later became our country's first Secretary of Defense. Secretary Forrestal apparently sent such a letter to those who served, to arrive after they had returned to civilian life.
Noting the historic achievements made by the U.S. military in World War II, Secretary Forrestal wrote:
"You have served in the greatest Navy in the world. ... It crushed two enemy fleets at once, receiving their surrenders only four months apart. It brought our land-based air power within bombing range of the enemy and set our ground armies on the beachheads of final victory. ... For your part in these achievements you deserve to be proud as long as you live. The nation you served at a time of crisis will remember you with gratitude."
That letter hangs on my office wall in the Pentagon as a reminder of the patriots
who have stood between threats and our shores - the millions of patriots we call veterans.
From the beginning, our country has been challenged by those seeking to change our way of life - dictators, fascists, communists, and terrorists. Each time, we have stood against them - from the battles at Lexington and Concord to Fallujah and Tal Afar. The nature of the threats to our liberty changes over time, but one thing remains constant: the men and women who proudly step forward, raise a hand and say, "Send me."
Those who join the United States Armed Forces are following in that noble tradition of our country. They have volunteered for a cause that is greater than themselves. No matter where you are deployed, at home
or abroad, always remember that America is not what is wrong with the world. Whether serving for four years or 40, each of you have made an indelible mark on the cause of liberty.
There are few other professions where you can wake up every day and know that our nation is safer because of you. And when the time comes to take off that uniform for the last time, you can be proud to join the company of veterans who have helped to keep our country safe, keep us free, and preserve our way of life through the generations.
On this Veterans Day, we thank those serving today and those who have come before, for truly outstanding service to our country, and for making a proud history. God bless you all. And God bless our wonderful country.