‘On this Veterans Day, thank you.’

John Boehner

WASHINGTON—Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) attended the Janesville Patriotic Society’s Veterans Day Program in Janesville, Wisconsin. Following are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Well, thank you very much. I’m always happy to spend time in Janesville. But it’s a special honor to spend this day with all of you. Simply put, I couldn’t be prouder of our veterans. They are the pride of our community. They, better than anyone, demonstrate those classic American values: duty, honor, country. They give those words real meaning. And that’s why we set aside this day to honor them.

“I’ve been coming to events like these for years. And every time, I struggle to find just the right words to express my gratitude and admiration. To be honest, I don’t always feel up to the task—because whatever I come up with seems wholly inadequate. But after thinking it over, I’ve decided there are only three ways to properly honor our veterans: to remember, to reflect, and to pray.

“There are so many great stories about our state’s veterans—stories of heroism and derring-do. I think of Thomas Griffin, of Green Bay, who was a bomber navigator in Doolittle’s Raid; or John Bradley, of Antigo, who helped raise the American flag over Iwo Jima. Then there are the Janesville Tankers—the 99 men from Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion, who braved the brutal Bataan Death March. Only 33 survived. And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Army Cpl. Donald R. Hendrickson, who is now being recognized after being reported missing in action during the Korean War 60 long years ago.

“These are amazing stories. They remind us that greatness is not the domain of the rich and powerful. It is found in the hearts of everyday people—people who can be called upon at any moment, no matter what their lot their life. These stories are our most precious inheritance—because they do not simply preserve the memory of the past; they inspire us to even greater feats in the future. That’s why we must pass them on to the next generation. We must always remember the heroes in our midst. 

“I’d say these stories are so inspiring that they should prompt us to reflect. Do we truly appreciate what it took to make this country free? Do we make the most of our freedom? Would our veterans be as proud of us and our daily lives as we are of them and their heroic deeds? In a way, Veterans Day is not solely for our veterans; it is for all of us. It is a day to take stock of what we are doing with the freedom our veterans have sacrificed so much to protect. I’d like to think that most of the time we would be found worthy. But there’s no denying that sometimes we fall short.

“And that’s why, on a day like this, we can’t help but turn to God—to ask for his mercy and to seek his guidance. This is a great country he has given us. He has blessed us many times over. We should recognize those blessings. We should give thanks. We should pray. And so I just want to say to you, on this Veterans Day, thank you. Thank you for all you have done for our country. It is an honor to work for you. It is an honor simply to know you. And that is why, I am so glad to salute all of you—this little platoon of moral might—the veterans of Janesville, Wisconsin. Thank you.” 

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