I was honored this past weekend to be invited by VFW Post 3000 to speak at their Veterans Day event. The Antelope Valley of Southern California is chock full of Veterans, and they’re all amazing people with amazing stories. While it doesn’t have anything to do with airpower, here’s the transcript of the speech:
So, there I was, 40 thousand feet over Baghdad. 2 missiles in the air, tracking me, locked on. We juked and jived (as much as you can in a B-52, which admittedly isn’t much), we jammed and chaffed, but no good. Missile locked. Here comes death. And I thought to myself, …. I should have gone to medical school like my mother wanted.[Laughs]
I spent a lot of my time fighting in distant wars from the air. From the stratosphere. It all looks different from up top. Northern Iraq looks a lot like South Dakota. I had spent a few years here in the Antelope Valley in the Mojave Desert before going over to Kandahar, and that was good for me. You’d be surprised how much Kandahar and Edwards AFB have in common.[Laughs]
Too few places to eat, too few parking spots, too much Air Force, too many fighter pilots trying to one up each other with their cute little planes, and way too many contractors trying to sell us something. Kandahar, Edwards… kinda the same. Then I saw some really rugged stuff…bad places, and it all clicked. That’s why the Army has Fort Irwin and the Marines have 29 Palms. Compared to those places Baghdad and Helmand are cake walks. If Syria had In-and-Out Burger, there’d be no difference.[Laughs]
We’re here to celebrate the service of this great family we call the military. No matter your branch of service; active duty, reserve, or guard, that service and sacrifice deserves celebration. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Korea to Khe Sanh to Kuwait to Kandahar to Korengal, from Berlin to Baghdad, our veterans have borne the true cost of what it means to be American.
We’ll spend a lot of today thanking Veterans for their service. It’s appreciated, but honestly, most of the time it’s unnecessary. Most of us spend our service living a dream. Flying our biggest baddest jet higher and further and faster and harder than ever before. It’s a dream to do what I do. You don’t need to thank me for it, I need to thank the taxpayer for letting me do it.
But you do need to thank someone… our families. They never get thanked for their service. They don’t get a holiday. They don’t get thanked for the long absences, the nomadic existence, the constant fear of our safety. Those families that sacrificed in silence (although some of them don’t really do the silence part). Our families sacrificed too. If you’re going to take the time to thank a veteran today, take the time to thank the family too.
Since you gave me a microphone and you can’t really stop me, I’ll do it. Right now. To the families of the veterans, thank you for being there for us. Our nation wasn’t always there for us, but you were. You deserve the applause.[Applause]
So I think by now, you’ve caught on to the fact that I’m not the guy who says what everyone thinks I’m going to say. I’m the guy that says what needs to be said, whether you like it or not. I’m supposed to tell you how awesome veterans are and dictate a long list of our attributes and accolades and battles fought and wars won. But I’m not going to do that, it’s played out. Everyone does that. Instead of reminding us of all our victories, I’m going to talk about the battle we aren’t fighting, and the war that we aren’t winning.
I’m talking about the Battle for America in the War of Truth.
The biggest problem that America has with Veterans, is we speak of them and think of them in the past tense. It’s always “what you have done” or “where you have served.” Past tense. It’s as if the world is somehow done with us. Are you done? Do you feel done? When we gather to celebrate veterans, is it only the past that concerns us?
What we have done is important. It matters. The battles we have fought, the sacrifices we have made, the nation we have built, these things are important and I don’t intend to bush them aside. However, what interests me today is not what we have done, but what we still can do.
In the hot mess that is America today, who can we trust? No one will tell us the truth. Is America in ruin, or is it greater than ever? Are we in trouble or are we awesome? Are we doing right or are we destroying everything? What is the truth? Who can we trust anymore? Not the news, it’s all fake apparently. Not the internet, any troll can say whatever and get 100,000 likes and a million re-tweets. Polls say we can’t even trust our politicians, trust in them is at an all-time low. But can we even trust the polls? Who can we trust? Who will tell the truth?
In America today, the only people who are trusted anymore are Veterans. That gives us power. And we have a spectacular opportunity to speak truth to that power. America is begging for truth and leadership, and no other community has the ability to provide that, except us. Veterans can do that.
Why? Because we have proven our worth to this nation. Who else has given what we have? What other resume can compete with ours? It takes courage and character and honor to tell the hard truth. The Veteran has proven to America time and again we have that. They believe it when we say it. The politician and the journalist and the internet troll and so many others have compromised their integrity and their honor to get headlines. The veteran would never do that.
22 Million Veterans inhabit today’s America. 22 Million voices of truth. 22 Million beacons of trust. 330 million other Americans are asking for our leadership. 330 million Americans feel abandoned by their elected leaders, who can they turn to in their time of need. They can turn to us. They depended on us in the past to fight those battles, and sacrifice for their liberty. We proved our worth then, and they need us to do it now. Not in a distant desert, but here. Now.
See, when our men and women sign up to become a soldier or a sailor, an airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman, they don’t stop being citizens. When we choose to take off the uniform, our service to this nation doesn’t stop, either.
Fewer than 10 percent of all Americans can claim the title “veteran.” Far less than 1 percent of our population is currently serving. But nowhere is power more disproportionately entrusted. Veterans, you are not done. We are not to be viewed in the past tense. We are not the weapons of liberty, we are the guardians of it. Liberty still needs us.
We still serve. In the war for truth, I’m calling all-hands-on-deck, scramble the birds, launch the fleet. America needs its veterans to get up, speak out, and show us the way.[Applause]
So, since I believe I’m the highest ranking officer here… here are your orders.[Laughs]
No, for real, I’m about to give some orders.[Laughs]
Learn the truth, the real truth. Don’t fall of the easy lie you get spoon fed by others. Do your homework and get the real truth. Then speak it. Write about it. Run for office.
We are at war, and it’s not even a new one. We’ve been fighting this war since 1776. It is a war for truth. The Declaration of Independence was a Facebook post to the world. Don’t believe the hype, this is the truth. The Constitution was an e-mail blast to our own people, don’t believe the lies, this is the truth. Social Media is the new battleground. 24-hour News is the new artillery strike. Elections are the new nuclear weapons.
America is a participation sport. When America’s veterans choose to participate, we win. Our past gives us the power to change the future.
Veterans, thank you for your service, but you are not done.
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