Each year we come together around Veterans Day to reflect on the past. And focus on the future. But this year is more important than any other year.
After the most divisive election of our lifetime, this Veterans Day is a time to come together as Americans. This year we can be united as one. This year we can begin to heal, to band together and to move forward with purpose. That purpose is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. And change history.
But IAVA’s work is not just for veterans. It’s for all Americans. Your involvement is a down-payment on America’s future. In these trying times especially, when the fabric of America seems under attack from all sides, veterans are a source of strength, leadership and hope. Veterans are not a charity, we’re an investment. And this Veterans Day, all across this country, you’ll see how that investment is paying off for all Americans. And why that investment is so critical to navigating the difficult days and years ahead.
In the last year, troops and veterans have been stereotyped and politicized like never before. Many in Washington claim to speak for us. And many more try to use us. And one guy in particular does it all the time. In ways big and small, our troops and veterans have been weaponized by politicians who want to use us as a wedge, an applause line, a sword, or a shield. Some are debating whether or not to have a parade in Washington, while 20 of our brothers and sisters die every day by suicide. And Afghanistan, has become forgotistan. The stakes have never been higher.
But veterans can speak for themselves just fine, thank you very much. We aren’t pawns in a political game. We also aren’t a homogeneous group with the same beliefs. We aren’t damaged. We aren’t a menace to society. We aren’t beholden to one politician or political party. And we aren’t children in need of coddling. Far from it. We are powerful. We are diverse. We speak for ourselves. And we are the future. We saw that on Election Night, as over 75 veterans were elected to Congress from both parties. It was what I called the Camouflage Wave. And it’s just getting started.
We earned the right to stand up and be heard. But we’re doing more than just talking. We’re getting things done. We’re looking out for our own. We’re solving problems. With the best one-on-one case management program for veterans in America – IAVA saves lives daily. And most of all, through our unparalleled advocacy, IAVA is tackling the biggest challenges facing veterans and the military community – and all of America. That’s why IAVA’s work is so critical for everyone – Republican, Democrat and everything in between.
From combating suicide, to fighting for women’s rights, to defending the GI Bill, to battling for VA reform, to driving support for burn pit exposures, to empowering wounded vets who want to utilize medical cannabis, IAVA is leading the way. Just as we have for the last fourteen years. And our Big 6 Advocacy Priorities are the issues that define us. But it’s also bigger than that. Especially right now.
We are standing up for American values. Demonstrating tolerance. Protecting the weak. And taking on hate. We stand for country above party. We stand against anyone who puts politics ahead of principles. We stand ready when terrorists wish to do us harm – from outside or from within. We stand for equality. When sadly, the older vets groups still won’t. We stand for the rights of all Americans. To stand. Or kneel. Because we stand for free speech. And the free press. And we stand ready to solve problems and move America forward. With over 22 million veterans in America, every issue is now a veterans’ issue. And we stand ready to lead.
When we joined the military, we stood up to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. When we take our uniforms off, that doesn’t stop. It never stops. Especially in America’s toughest times, veterans stand up to hold the line. Veterans keep the politicians in check. Veterans run into the hurricanes. Veterans teach our students. Veterans volunteer to help. Veterans answer the call.
And we’ll unite this Veterans Day with heavy heart. This week in California, a young vet killed 12 innocent people in a bar. It was senseless. But we know it was the exception. Vets are much more likely to help others than hurt them. And they are even more likely to run toward the gunfire to help. We also learned that two of our own were among the victims: Dan Manrique and Telemachus Orfanos . A Marine and a Sailor. This Veterans Day, we remember Dan and Telemachus. And we fight on in their memory.
Veterans are America’s conscience. They always have been. From George Washington to The Bonus March to present day, veterans have been America’s true north.
This Veterans Day is a time to celebrate our community, its diversity and its relentless resolve. Thanks to your involvement, we’ve connected, united and empowered more post-9/11 veterans than any other organization in the United States. We’ve set the agenda, and driven the dialogue . And now is a time to rally the reinforcements. By standing with us this Veterans Day, you’re a part of that movement. And this Veterans Day, you have an opportunity to help. And celebrate the amazingness of our community.
Together we can change the future. For 22 million veterans – and for all Americans. Our impacts are far reaching and measurable – and include the men and women all across this country this Veterans Day.
The last few months in America have been tough for all of us. But Veterans Day is about the future! A future that is much brighter thanks to your involvement with IAVA.
Thank you for standing with us now. It is time to power IAVA to change the future of America. And that begins this Veterans Day. Together, we have big things ahead.