By Rear Adm. Rick Williams, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
“Thank you for your service.”
Those of us who are privileged to serve in the military have heard that phrase many times. In airports or while back in our home-towns, we hear those words from civilians who are truly grateful for the service and sacrifice of those who wear the uniform of our nation.
Particularly since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a deeper appreciation for veterans and their families. That’s especially true for the wounded warriors among us.
“Thank you for your service” means, “thank you for the sacrifice, for the willingness to go into harm’s way, for the long stretches of time away from home.” “Thank you for defending us and defending freedom.”
Veterans Day is an opportunity for all of us to offer a special thanks to the veterans. We are very grateful to our veterans from all conflicts not only for their service, but also for their wisdom and willingness to teach us some of the lessons of history including vigilance, readiness, humility and cooperation.
Hundreds of veterans from across the country visit our historic sites in and around Pearl Harbor-Hickam each week. Many wear their ball caps or insignia to proudly display their ship’s name, unit or the conflicts in which they served World War II, Korea, Vietnam.
We work side by side with veterans who served in Iraq/Afghanistan, during the Cold War or in Vietnam. For those living off base, there’s a good chance you have a veteran as a neighbor. Most of us have veterans in our family. Veterans Day is a reminder to express our appreciation.
There was a time in the ’60s and early ’70s when many in our military did not hear words of thanks. Instead they were often vilified and verbally attacked.
Now, as we reflect on the 50-year anniversary of the beginning of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, we have an opportunity to assist a grateful nation in remembering, recognizing and thanking Vietnam War veterans. It’s also a chance to remember families, the fallen, the wounded, former prisoners of war, and those unaccounted-for warriors listed as missing in action.
Recently Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert issued the Department of the Navy goals and objectives for FY15. At the top: “Take care of our people.” And one of the top initiatives under that goal and objective is, “Support veteran employment initiative and wounded warriors reintegration program.”
So, one way to thank our resilient veterans from decades past—and from the years since 9/11—is to help them get hired.
I’m pleased to see so many veterans using their G.I. Bill benefits to further their education and get ahead after the military. At a recent retirement seminar, veterans showed how engaged they still are, still serving, still involved as mentors. We will continue to conduct or support job fairs and help get the word out about hiring veterans. It’s a good investment.
Speaking of investments – today dozens of service members are graduating from local colleges, some with master’s degrees. No doubt these graduates were encouraged by leaders, colleagues and veterans to get their education, set their goals, and contribute to the overall mission. A good education and applied experience translates to success in and out of military service.
Next week at various Veterans Day events and next month at our Dec. 7 commemoration at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, I will have the pleasure of meeting veterans and renewing acquaintances.
I’ll thank them for their service and sacrifice. And I’ll thank them for inspiring me every day and for reminding us of the lessons of history.