Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day Ceremony--Emcee Again

The garrison sergeant major asked me to emcee the Veteran's Day program last week so today I had another opportunity to host an event and speak. The talk is below--shorter than the last one, really an intro to the day. Most of the program was music and it was really good. The program began with a solo for the national anthem, then a trio who sings acapella sang Amazing Grace. I wish I could describe how well they sing.
After two of these I will be homesick for Army events. To all of my friends for whom some of their job is organizing events: Nancy, Audrey, Sarah, Brigitte, Kristine, Bob and Rick--just try to picture having eight speakers and performers who show up early for each rehearsal, who practice their talks and performances, who speak politely to all of the event staff, who are happy for the opportunity to be part of the performance, an audience that actually shuts off or ignores their phones and Blackberries. I could go on, but you get the idea. With a group like this last-minute changes are a breeze.
And like last time, the event started precisely on the minute, you'll see why in the talk. Everyone performed as we rehearsed. No one went over time.
What a great day.
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Welcome to the Celebration of Veteran’s Day on COB Adder. I am Sergeant Neil Gussman of Task Force Diablo.

This ceremony began at the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—exactly 91 years after the Allied Armies accepted the surrender of Germany marking the end of World War One in 1918. This terrible conflict killed and maimed millions of soldiers. France suffered worst. The war was fought almost entirely inside her borders. This beautiful country had a population of 60 million when the war began in 1914. Four years later a million French soldiers were dead, five million were wounded. This global conflict introduced the world to many of the most horrible weapons of modern war. In 1916, the Germans had the infamy of being the first to use chemical warfare, releasing chlorine gas from hundreds of cylinders on a clear morning in Belgium and killing thousands of mostly French troops who did not know that the green cloud rolling toward them meant agonizing death, until it was too late. Using aircraft to bomb troops and civilians began in World War One. Tanks made their terrible debut on the battlefields of this war. When the First World War ended it was called “The War to End All Wars.”

It wasn’t.

But this horrible war with millions dead led our nation and other nations to honor not only those who died for their country, but those who lived to enjoy the freedom that their service gave to all of us. That is why we are here today, to honor all those who have served before us in Iraq and Afghanistan, to honor those who served in the Gulf War, in Panama, in Lebanon, in Somalia, in Viet Nam, in Korea, and in World War Two. We are also here to honor each other. Everyone who wears the uniform in this room is a veteran. We are all members of an exclusive club. If you add together every soldier, airmen, sailor and marine including National Guard and reserve, there are less than two million men and women in uniform. That is less than two-thirds of one percent of the US population. It’s the same number of US citizens who hold PhD degrees in either the arts or sciences.

So enjoy the program. Make this the day you thank the veteran sitting next to you for his or her service. Maybe call that uncle or aunt you haven’t talked to for a while who served in the Gulf War or Viet Nam. Thank them for their service.

From this old soldier who enlisted during Viet Nam, thank you for your service.

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