Traditionally, Veterans' Dayhas been observed on November 11 but a new federal law has moved this event to the fourth Monday in October. The change, which also gave us four federal public holidays on Mondays, became effective this year, therefore, we observe Veterans' Day, today -- October 25.
For many of us, our thoughts instinctively go back to World War I and November 11, 1918 . . . When the signing of the armistice ended a period of war and began a period of peace.
With optimism, we labeled World War I the war to end all wars." With gratitude, we honored our soldiers by burying . . . At Arlington National Cemetery . . . One whose identity was "known but to god." In 1926, to sustain our memory of these acts, we proclaimed November 11 as armistice day. And in 1938 it became a national holiday.
Only a year elapsed, however, before hopes for a lasting peace were shattered by the beginning of World War ii, , and three years before the U.S. armed forces were committed to combat. To honor the veterans of World War II and other wars, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans' Day in June 1954. Two more unidentified American war dead . . . One killed in World War II and the other in the Korean War . . . Were interred beside the unknown World War I soldier at Arlington.
These three are symbolic of the millions who have served their country in uniform. We are forever indebted to all of them . . . Not only to those who are dead . . . But also to those who are alive. The living veteran continues to shoulder special responsibility for the peace and security of the nation. Constant vigilance . . . Instead of the rifle . . . Is his weapon. He has exchanged his uniform for mufti, but not responsibility for irresponsibility.
Let us take a closer look at the veteran . . . His service to the aviation . . . And the nation's obligation to him. Perhaps these few minutes will enable us to recall the two-way street that exists between the two.
First, some basic facts about the men we honor today:
+ There have been more than 38 million Americans who have served their country in the military service . . . And of that number over 28 million are still living.
+ Living veterans and their families . . . Plus the living dependents of deceased veterans . . . make up about one-half of the population of the united states.
+ Vietnam era veterans are generally young . . . With more than half falling in the 20-24 age bracket. About 78 percent have completed high school! At separation, compared with 63 percent of the veterans of the Korean War and 45 percent of veterans of World War ii.
The men who fought in these wars were a courageous group
. . . But hardly a select one. Most of them were ordinary
. . . Undistinguished from their neighbors until the day came when the crisis of battle lifted them to the heights of valor.
The majority of veterans understood the need for their service: they loved both freedom and their country. They understood . . . And still understand . . . That freedom has a price tag: it is not free; it must be earned . . . By eachgeneration . . . Or it will perish. As Thomas Paine put it: "those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
The veteran is a constant reminder of this fact. His presence reminds us of our blessings and the hard-fought, bitter experiences undertaken to protect our heritage. But the veteran has been more than a soldier. He has also been a humanitarian. His compassion and benevolence are reflected in thousands of civic action projects sponsored in the countries where he has been stationed. Veterans have built schools, orphanages, and hospitals and dispensaries. They have sponsored Christmas parties and arranged for food and clothing to be sent from the united states to underprivileged children and elderly persons in need. They have contributed their time, money, and materials to help our friends overseas without benefit to themselves. In his own country, he has promoted the welfare of those less fortunate than he . . . By assisting them, through domestic action and other programs, in obtaining the mental and manual skills so necessary to their role as productive members of society. So not only in their military duties, but also in their volunteer capacity, veterans have helped millions of people abroad and at home.
Today, there is another side of the picture. Many veterans . . . Primarily from the Vietnam era . . . are themselves in need of assistance. Their problem is in making the transition from military to civilian life.
The Vietnam-era veteran is of special concern to us. Since the time of large-scale commitment of American forces to Southeast Asia began in late 1964, 3.7 million men and women have left military service. The annual rate of separations increased gradually from 531 thousand in 1965 to 958 thousand in 1969. Annual military separations have totaled over one million servicemen for each of the past two fiscal years.
With these large numbers of men leaving the armed forces, many are experiencing difficulties in making the changeover .in finding jobs, for example.
Whatever our views are concerning the war in Vietnam, we all have a special obligation to the returning veterans. As President Richard Nixon stated: "the nation owes these veterans not only its deepest thanks for their sacrifice and their service, but also its assistance in their efforts to resume normal civilian activities."
In this connection, the President . . . Last June . . . Called for a coordinated and intensive effort by federal agencies and business to provide employment opportunities for returning veterans. In a letter, dated June 11, he directed the secretary of labor to assume leadership in this area. The President 's letter to the Secretary of Labor outlined six tasks. They were as follows:
1.Draw upon the resources of the National Alliance of Businessmen.
2. Work with the Secretary of Defense to expand substantially the transition program for separating servicemen in order-to increase the opportunities for improving job counseling, job training, and placement.
3. Immediately augment the number of training opportunities for returning veterans and encourage veteran and employer participation.
4. Require listing of all job openings with the U.S. Employment Service by all agencies and contractors funded by the federal government. Greatly increase the effectiveness of the U.S.Training And Employment Service in finding and opening jobs and job-training opportunities for returning veterans. Provide special labor/VA services for Vietnam-era veterans who have been drawing unemployment compensation for three months or longer,
The President considers these tasks of vital importance in providing the returning veteran what he has earned -- a smooth transition to civilian life and meaningful work.
Since 1968 the Army has been engaged in a program to help veterans make this smooth transition. The program, called project transition, provides pre-separation counseling, job placement service, and training for those separating servicemen with a nonmarketable or limited civilian skill or trade. The training is available to those who are within six months of completing their tour of service.
So far, the Army has offered in-service transition training opportunities to over 131 thousand servicemen and provided pre-separation vocational guidance counseling services to approximately 478 thousand servicemen. Project transition is in operation at over 50 Army installations in all four stateside Army areas, the Military District of Washington, and Hawaii and Alaska. Plans are being made to extend project transition counseling services to overseas commands.
This then is one of our obligations to returning veterans: to help them return to a productive civilian life. There is another obligation . . . of greater magnitude . . . and that has to do with the security of the nation.
We owe our veterans . . . in recognition of their efforts and sacrifices . . . a commitment to keep America strong . . . and to keep America free, they should rightfully expect that we the people will continue to support our nation's role as a leader in the free world. President Nixon said at an American legion dinner last February: "and now we come to another period, a period when we will end a war, when we will be at peace with the rest of the world, and when the decision will have to be made by the American people as to whether we maintain the adequate national defense that we need.
Today strategic, manpower, fiscal, and political facts of life dictate that we must make some changes if the Army is to continue to fulfill its role as an effective member of the national defense team. One major undertaking is the move toward building a smaller but more professional Army. The Army Chief of Staff, General William C.. Westmoreland, in a statement to all officers and noncommissioned officers of the Army in April, stated: ". . .I (have) committed the Army to an all-out effort toward achieving a modern volunteer force. Our goal is to attract and retain enough good men to enable reducing draft calls to zero. Moreover, we must produce a better Army -- one with greater pride, enhanced professionalism, and increased capability - an organization that men of quality will want to join and serve in for a career."
Changes have not and will not be made purely for the sake of something different. Those traditions and customs that contribute to discipline, leadership. And effectiveness are still required. We must continue to rely on sound principles, steeled by the service of our veterans . . . Who must be credited with constructing the foundation upon which we today seek to build a better Army.
In conclusion, be reminded that our veterans are a source of pride in our nation . . . and exemplify the kind of dedication and sacrifice needed for safeguarding freedom. Let us remember them . . . and their contributions to the cause of freedom . . . Not only on Veterans' Day. . . But for all the days and years of our lives.