By Senator Susan Collins
For more than two centuries, young Americans have left the comfort and security of home in order to preserve our freedom and to extend the blessings of freedom to others. Veterans Day is a solemn anniversary– a day set aside not to celebrate victory in a great battle, but to honor the sacrifice that brought peace. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 was not marked by the roar of cannon. Rather, it was the moment the guns were silenced by courage, devotion to duty, and a commitment to freedom.
The virtues that brought about that silence echo through the ages. It is appropriate that Veterans Day now honors all who have defended our nation. Whether they serve in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, or the Merchant Marine, whether they serve in the regular forces, the National Guard or the Reserves, they sacrificed much to serve our country.
It was my father who taught me to honor our veterans. A World War II veteran, my father earned his Purple Heart when he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. From my father, I learned that the heroes who wear the uniforms of America’s armed forces are peace-loving, caring men and women who put aside the comforts of civilian life to advance the cause of freedom.
In this 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War, we reflect today with reverence upon a generation that served with honor but often with little thanks. Across Maine and throughout America, we pay tribute to the nine million men and women who wore our nation’s uniform during the Vietnam Era, advancing the sacred ideals of liberty and self-determination.
All gave some, and some gave all. The names of the more than 58,000 patriots who gave their lives in Southeast Asia, including 339 from Maine, are forever etched in black granite on the Vietnam Memorial in our nation’s capital. The names of the nearly 1,800 Americans who remain unaccounted for, including 14 from Maine, are forever etched in our hearts. None will ever be forgotten.
We best honor the fallen and the missing by honoring the veterans with us today. During my time in the U.S. Senate, I have had the privilege helping many of these heroes receive the medals and honors that they earned and deserve but in some cases never received at the time.
Ted Smith of Richmond is among those patriots of the Vietnam Era who carried on our nation’s tradition of advancing the sacred cause of freedom with courage and devotion. He served two tours of duty with the U.S. Navy’s legendary Seabees, providing, in the words of Navy Secretary Paul Nitze, “vitally needed logistic support to growing numbers of United States and Allied military personnel.”
It is an honor to have recently helped Mr. Smith secure the medals and ribbons he earned through his courageous service. These include the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Meritorious Unit Citation for Gallantry ribbon bar from the Republic of Vietnam, among others. Each symbolizes courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty, and the gratitude of an entire nation.
We are fortunate to live in a state in which so many have served our nation with honor. This Veterans Day, we should also remember the parents, the wives and husbands, the children and other loved ones of our veterans and troops. Their sacrifices are great, and we must thank them as well.
The Americans we honor on Veterans Day fought for the security of our nation, and for benefit of mankind. Those who serve today – the veterans of tomorrow – carry on this great mission. They have earned our deepest thanks, not just on Veterans Day, but for all the days to come.
Attached Photo shows Mr. Ted Smith being congratulated by Chuck Mahaleris, a member of Senator Collins’ staff.