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Radio Address on the American Veteran

October 22, 1972

Good morning, my fellow Americans:

Veterans Day this year takes on an added meaning as American troops return from another distant conflict, because of the progress we have made this past year toward our goal of a full generation of peace.

No group has sacrificed more for this goal than the men and women who have proudly worn the American uniform. In serving their country, they have sought not glory for themselves, but peace, honor, and freedom for us all. Today, I ask all of my fellow citizens to join with me in honoring them.

The American veteran has expressed in his service much of what is finest in our Nation. Courage, selflessness, discipline, and devotion--these are qualities we will need as much to build a future at peace as we have needed in the past in time of War.

At a time when a small minority has tried to glorify the few who have refused to serve, it is more important than ever that we honor the millions who have loyally stood by their country when the challenge to freedom called for service.

Speaking for the American people, I say today that the vast majority of us have never been prouder of our country's nearly 29 million living veterans, whatever their service, whether they are the survivors of World War I or the young Americans who have served in Vietnam. To all of them I say that our respect has never been stronger, nor our gratitude greater, than on this Veterans Day, 1972.

As President I have done everything I can to see to it that this gratitude and respect is reflected by the Government's treatment of American veterans. Dollars, health care, educational opportunities can never fully repay the sacrifices our veterans have made, but they can at least serve as a beginning.

I am happy to be able to report that America is doing more for its veterans today than ever before. Since January 1969:

--We have raised veterans average compensation benefits by over 20 percent and pensions by 16 percent.

--We have increased the individual veteran's education and training benefits by 34 percent. And when I sign into law the new GI bill benefits just enacted by the Congress, they will have risen by nearly 70 percent, and our total outlays for veterans education and training benefits will have quadrupled.

--We have brought hospital and extended care treatment to over 80,000 more veterans than ever before; VA clinic-outpatient treatments have increased by 4 million.

--We have doubled the number of GI bill trainees, from 90,000 in 1969 to over 2 million expected by 1973.

--We have increased the number of guaranteed housing loans to veterans by 64 percent over the 1969 level.

Each of these achievements is important; each has brought a better life and a more promising future for millions of American veterans and their families.

But as we approach the end of our long and difficult military involvement in Vietnam, we have also had to recognize the need for special measures to meet special problems, and one of these is the problem of drug abuse. It is a social problem not a military problem, but it has made itself felt in our Armed Forces just as it has in our civilian society.

To meet it, we have mounted an unprecedented new effort to treat those veterans who have drug problems. In 1971, we increased the number of specialized Veterans Administration treatment centers for drug abuse sixfold. This year another 12 centers have been opened, and many existing facilities have been expanded.

More importantly, we have launched a massive educational and training effort to prevent drug abuse before the damage is done. It is helping the Armed Forces combat successfully a problem not of their own making. Just as we are determined to stamp out drug abuse in civilian society, we are also pledged to provide whatever is needed to stamp it out in our Armed Forces.

But in facing the drug problem, we must do so with perspective. We must never lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of Vietnam veterans have come out of this war with a clean slate and a record of honor.

As a private citizen and as President, I have been to Vietnam seven times.

I have been to Danang with the Marines; I have been up in the highlands with the Army; I have seen the Navy and the Air Force playing their part in the war effort.

And I can tell you from personal observation that we can all be proud of those Americans who have served in Vietnam.

I have seen young officers and enlisted men who have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to build schools and community centers, roads, orphanages for the people of South Vietnam.

I have seen them spend hours of their free time teaching and helping the people of Vietnam, and particularly the children of Vietnam.

It is fitting that at this time we honor the 6 million young men and women who stood by the flag and served their country during the period of the Vietnam war.

They deserve the opportunities which we are providing, but, even more, they deserve the respect which only you can give.

They deserve it because they have earned it.

And they stand today just as tall as their fathers who fought at Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Inchon.

To them, and to their parents, wives, and loved ones, I promise that as long as I am President, America will not turn her back on those who served. We are not going to make a mockery of their sacrifice by surrendering to the enemy or by offering amnesty to draft dodgers and deserters. The 2 1/2 million who chose to serve America in Vietnam have paid a price for their choice. The few hundred who chose to desert America must pay a price for their choice.

There is something else that we owe to the veterans of Vietnam. With America's combat role ending, with the reductions we have been able to make in our Armed Forces elsewhere, thousands of young veterans are coming home to begin civilian life again.

These young men deserve not only a welcome, they deserve a job. I am glad to be able to report that as the economy continues to expand, the job picture for American veterans is also improving. And part of the reason is the concentrated special effort being made by the Federal Government.

On June 11, 1971, I announced the Jobs for Veterans program with a target of providing one million Vietnam-era veterans with jobs and training placements by June 30, 1972.1 We have not only met that goal; we have surpassed it. We were able to place 1.3 million veterans by the June 30 target date, and we are now working to provide jobs and training placements for another 1 .3 million by next June for a 2-year total of 2.6 million.

In this connection, I would like to point out that hiring veterans is one of the best investments an employer can make. Veterans have proved their ability to work and to work hard. They know the importance of discipline. Their experience in the service has taught them the meaning of responsibility. Hiring veterans isn't just patriotic it makes plain good business sense.

So I am confident that, with the wholehearted support of the private sector and of individual citizens, we can achieve our goal of jobs for veterans.

Most of the challenges that we face as a nation are bigger than party politics.

No challenge is greater than that of keeping the peace in a dangerous world in which nations have conflicting interests.

During the past 4 years, we have begun moving out of an era of great peril and entering an era of great promise. But if we are to continue to make progress for peace, we must keep America strong.

We must keep America strong, not out of some misguided pride or national vanity, but because, in the whole free world today, no other nation can take America's place.

That is why one of the things I have worked hardest for as President has been to keep America strong.

There is no such thing as a retreat to peace. There is no such thing as peace without order. And if America were suddenly to slash away her defensive strength and abdicate her responsibilities as the major power of the flee world, we would be retreating.

We would be leaving behind us a global vacuum that could only be filled with chaos and turmoil--a vacuum in which peace and order could not survive.

Some of the voices we hear today calling for a weak America, for an isolationist America, are little more than echoes of past blunders. The same misguided thinking they espouse today led an unprepared America into two World Wars in this century because it encouraged others to believe that their aggressions would go unpunished.

Today America is strong. Today America is prepared. And because we are strong and prepared, we have been able to make dramatic progress toward arms reductions, toward better relations with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, toward the first full generation of peace our country will have known in this century.

That is something we all should think about on this Veterans Day, as we honor the Americans who have given so much in past wars. We can all be encouraged-both those who have already served to keep America free, and their children and younger brothers and sisters who, for the first time, have a realistic hope for a future in which all of our people can enjoy both peace and freedom.

Peace is not built by the weak of heart or by the weak of spirit. It is built by nations that have character, courage, and the strength to make their good intentions credible to others.

That is the kind of country America must remain. I promise that I will work to keep America that kind of country.

I can think of no better occasion than Veterans Day to renew this pledge to the American people.

Thank you, and good morning.

1 See 1971 volume, Item 200.

Note: The President spoke at 10:36 a.m. from Camp David, Md. The address was broadcast live on nationwide radio. Time for the broadcast was purchased by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President.

The President spoke from a prepared text. An advance text of his address was released on the same day.

Richard Nixon, Radio Address on the American Veteran Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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