Thank you so much. I am so honored to get to be here. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
And I'm so honored tonight to be able to speak about America's finest – our veterans. I was asked to speak about veterans and I said absolutely. Talk about near and dear to my heart, this subject.
Sergeant Dakota Meyer, I thank you so much for that introduction. His selfless service reminds us of that love, that patriotic that our country was built upon, and his selfless service inspires us. He and his generation of vets remind us of that courage that founded this country.
In fact, I'd like to tell you a story about America's first veterans and what this city's namesake said about them.
It was just days after the last British troops left our soil and the father of our country, General George Washington, he gathered his officers in a New York City tavern to bid them farewell. These hardened men, they had fought for years against the greatest military might in the world at that time. Against all odds, they won freedom – freedom for themselves and freedom for every American since. And standing before them, Washington was overcome with emotion. He was noting the sacrifices that they had made. He said, "With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take a leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable."
That was the wish for our first veterans, and it should be ours for every veteran that's followed. But we must ask, have we lived up to that? From then until now there's been a long line of heroic vets and they connect our history from George Washington to today, to Chris Kyle, millions like them. Millions likes them, ordinary Americans equipped for extraordinary things because they've come forward to serve and to save American's lives.
How many have done more than this generation in uniform, though? The war on terror is the longest military engagement in U.S. history. So many have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tens of thousands wounded, more than 6800 dead.
The strain on military and their families – it is enormous. During World War II, the average deployment in the combat theater, it was six months. Korean War, nine months. Vietnam, thirteen months. For Iraq and Afghanistan, an initial enlistment was 45 months.
This deployment costs, they are huge, and they're hidden. The longer someone's deployed and then redeployed, well, the more likely they'll suffer PTSD. And about half-a-million of our returning vets, they suffer some form of it. They suffer disproportionate unemployment numbers, and the average divorce rate, it's around eighty percent. And worse, ah friends, worse, the suicide rate, the suicide rate among our best and our brightest is 23 a day.
As we gather here, we're safe, we're secure, we're having fun – four days together at a conference. In these four days, 92 of our veterans will have taken their lives.
So have we lived up to Washington's wish for our vets? I don't ask this as a politician, as Dakota was suggesting there. No, I ask as one of so many mothers of a combat vet.
When my son went off to war – the first time as a teenager – I was confronted with the same reality that all the other moms have to face, and that's realizing that, man, I wasn't gonna be there to help, to protect. Moms can't be there when they hurt. I could pray and I did – and I do – but few things are more difficult than to kiss a child good-bye, off into harm's way, knowing that you're not gonna be able there, to protect. Those first appointments – that is when a parent goes from calling him son to calling him sir.
America hands over her sons and her daughters in service with the promise that they're gonna be taken care of. Our troops are promised that no one will be left behind on the battlefield. They're promised that a grateful nation will spare no expense to patch 'em up and bring 'em back to health when wounded.
And now, they come home wounded, too many, broken in body and spirit, Well, we – their mothers and their fathers and their husbands and their wives- we're here to collect on the promises made. We can't wait for D.D to fix their bureaucratic blunders.
This bureaucracy is killing our vets. They wait for months, they wait for for years, to get treatment at the VA, and they're losing hope. The VA's mistakes and those cover-ups – they have cost the lives of 500 vets in just the last four years, and that doesn't account for those who took their own lives in despair.
We witness the way a corrupt government treats our vets. The VA, putting them on those secret waiting lists and deceiving Congress and spying on investigators who were just trying to get to the bottom of it.
And don't fooled into thinking that the problem's resolved simply because the media doesn't cover lame duck scandals anymore. Just because one guy at the top resigned, well the problems didn't resign. The reason that you don't hear about them is because our vets don't whine. They're not wired to complain. That's why this ran under the radar for so long.
Well, our debt of gratitude, it starts payment with three simple solutions that government can and should do right now, because it is time to demand solutions.
First with health care. Give vouchers for treatment outside the VA. Give our vets the same freedom that they gave us. And instead of illegal aliens cutting in line, being rewarded with a handout of U.S. benefits – no, we demand that the vets are first in line.
Second, allow vets who are reentering the civilian workforce – let them use the skills that they learned in the military. Today, say a vet with superb computer or mechanical skills, often they have to go backward, they have to go back and take classes to get a paper degree, paper certificate to slap on the wall that says, okay now I'm certified, in a field that they already knew. Let 'em test out, and their military certification can transfer over. Common sense, yeah. Common sense, which I know is an endangered species in these parts, yeah.
Third, secure their benefits. Congress secured their benefits. Did you know that last year, Congress actually voted to cut vets' retirement benefits by 20 percent? Did they vote to cut their own? No, and they only reversed course when enough of us, we rose up in protest. So, take the issue away from the politicians after legislation to secure benefits permanently.
Now, health care and benefits, you know, this is just part of the equation. General Washington wished for our veterans that their deeds in war would be recognized as glorious and honorable, and the deeds have been, certainly, there's no question. But see the thing that those vets from the Revolutionary War, what they have that today's troops don't, is victory. And that is the thing that they cherish most. They deserve to know that their sacrifices are not in vain, to know that what they fought for and what their friends died for was worth it.
It is said that old men declare wars and then they send the young ones to fight 'em. So it's the duty of he who sends them to actually make sure that we can win those wars. And it's our duty to elect an honorable commander in chief who is willing to make the same sacrifices he sends others away to make.
We must provide our troops the political will to win and the rules of engagement to win. How many Americans are harmed today because politically correct rules of engagement are opposed by those who are just too uncomfortable to give troops the trust and the tools that they need to win?
That leads to a very unpleasant question, and it's one that what every, well, Gold Star mom and every veteran will live with forever. Did we can actually win in Iraq and Afghanistan before we waved the white flag?
The jury is still out, but when evil Islamic terrorists are on the march, screaming Allahu Akbar from Syria to Iraq to Libya and Yemen and the street to Paris, well, it doesn't look like victory. The Middle East is a tinderbox and it's coming apart at the seams. It's a [?] playground. ISIS expands. It takes back land that we just spilled our blood to secure, with their ultimate goal of a caliphate that extends from Baghdad to Damascus to Jerusalem itself.
Only in Egypt is jihad in retreat, and that is no thanks to the Obama administration. Remember, they supported the Muslim Brotherhood, which was finally toppled by the people in one of the largest popular revolts in history.
Now in '09 when Obama took over the war on terror, Islamists were in retreat and al Qaeda was a broken force. Now Islamists, they control more territory than ever. It's where they train and launch more attacks on us and our allies. And that was predictable. Military brass warned, warned the left, do not pull out without allowing a residual force to remain to keep a lid on it and to retain the ground that the good guys just gained.
Friends, the rise of ISIS? It is the direct result of this administration's refusal to heed that warning. It is. And now everywhere you look, well, Islamists are on the march. From Boko Haram selling schoolgirls as slaves and ISIS crucifying Christians and burning the innocent alive in cages and beheading children, babies.
Aside from God Almighty, what is the only force strong enough to keep the barbaric growing tide at bay, the only thing standing between us and savages? It's the red, white and blue, it's the United States military.
We are in a long-term civilizational struggle against the forces of evil. Now if we intend to beat 'em, we'd better get serious about victory. The consequences of weakness – it's retreat and defeat. In the past, our leaders confronted evil with moral clarity, eliminated the fascists and the Nazis. They consigned communism to the dust bin of history.
Make no mistake – radical Islamist is just as dangerous as those ideologies. And Islamists now, they swear they're gonna bring the fight to our shores. ISIS threatens to raise its black flag over our White House. They told President Obama, We will cut off your head in the White House.
But our lead-from-behind president things that we can coexist with these genocidal thugs. He thinks the Islamic state isn't really Islamic. Pretending it's not there to make it go away. Calling it something else won't make it so. And lecturing Christians to get off our high horse about radical Islam won't stop the Islamists from killing Christians.
Stop blaming the victim and wake up, Mr. President. While Christians bow our heads to pray for you, radical Islamists want to cut off your head. The world that they want is a world that would submit.
We will never submit to evil. We will consign radical Islam to the ash heap of history, just like the Nazis before them.
Oh, the naive Obama State Department. Oh. They say, we can't kill our way out war. Really? Tell that to the Nazis. Oh wait, you can't, because they're dead. We killed them.
History proves – the destruction of an enemy's military apparatus – that leads to victory and from victory to peace.
So we will not tolerate politicians who squander the precious lives of our sons and our daughters on the battlefield and then, when they come home, politicians callously refusing to respect and repay them. Our vets deserve better and we demand better.
Because friends, if you look for the virtues that sets our nation apart from the enemy, you'll find them in those who wear the uniform, who take the oath, who pay the price for our freedom.
The jihadists fight out of hatred, hatred of Jews and Christians and women and diversity and freedom. Our troops – they fight out of love, love of family and country and freedom.
And if you love freedom, thank a vet! And I would ask any veteran in here today, or active duty military, honor us by please standing. We want to thank you. We salute you. We ask you to stand. We love you. [addressing veterans: Thank you. Thank you.]
We love you. Look – call to action time. Conservative action starts here. Okay, here's our call to action and not just here but everywhere in every day – find a vet, talk to them, thank them, thank them and honor them, and tell them that, yes, you love your freedom and you know who it is that needs to be thanked.
So, we will honor General Washington's wish. He said with a heart full of love and gratitude to achieve glory is an honorable victory on the battlefield, and help our freedom fighters, their civilian days be as prosperous and happy as their service to us was brave and true. So with one voice, let us say, God bless the United States military. We thank you, veterans, and God bless the United States of America.
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.