Jimmy Carter photo

Statement on Veterans Day

October 25, 1976

Veterans Day reminds all Americans of the sacrifice of those who have served our nation, and of our obligation to the servicemen and veterans of all wars whose courage has preserved our freedom.

Veterans Day reminds us also that a great nation must live at peace, both with the world and with itself. We cannot leave wounds untended, or hopes unrecognized. The nation that we have been—that we will be again— must be a nation confident of its strength and compassionate of its people.

Abraham Lincoln, in early 1865, spoke to the country of which he was President, with wisdom and with compassion. He asked his fellow citizens "to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

These words, familiar to all Americans, have a special meaning to those of us who have worn the nation's uniform. We are proud of our service, proud of those who served before and those who served later. We remember our ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and the War Between the States; our fathers and comrades who served in two World Wars and in Korea; our sons who left home, as did my own son, to serve their country in an unpopular war in Vietnam.

As a former military officer, the son of one veteran and the father of another, I know that peace requires a strong, effective national defense. Too often, the words "national security" are heard with skepticism; and too often, these words have been misused in the attempt to conceal mismanagement and inefficiency, or to divert attention from errors in policy or judgment.

The reasons for defense programs—and for the foreign policy which must lead our search for peace—must be explained openly and fully to the American people. These policies must be bipartisan; they must be consistent. Patriotism will not exist without trust.

Confidence and trust must also, once again, mean respect for the aspirations of all citizens, veterans and nonveterans alike, for health care, education, housing, and employment. We must focus our attention on policies which have left nearly 600,000 Vietnam-era veterans without jobs and our VA Hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.

Can we imagine that a President who speaks of national security two years ago vetoed a bill to provide for veterans of Vietnam the same educational benefits enjoyed by veterans of World War II and Korea? That this same administration first opposed, and then failed to enforce, laws intended to help our veterans secure job training and employment? That this same administration earlier this year failed to support cost of living increases in pensions and other benefits, only signing a bill passed by the Congress as the election approached?

Our national defense cannot be secured by turning our backs on our obligations to veterans. A man or woman who served our nation in time of war deserves a job in time of peace. Men who suffered in far off lands should not suffer anew in their own country from the insensitivity of bureaucrats or the indifference of their elected leaders.

As we restore the rights of all to health care, education, housing, employment, we will again achieve the national unity and the national strength our nation deserves.

As Governor of Georgia in the early 1970's when veterans of the Vietnam War began returning to my state, I commissioned a panel of distinguished Georgians, among them wounded veterans of Vietnam and wives of POW-MIA families. The panel was instructed to recommend solutions to the problems returning servicemen would face as they came back to their home communities. Many useful results flowed from the recommendations of this panel.

Therefore, if I am elected, I intend to commission a similar panel to examine how our Vietnam veterans and their families and the families erf POW-MIA are faring nationwide, how far they have been able to progress and obtain a stake in our country, and what should be done to meet the real needs of those still outside the mainstream of our society. Compassion should begin with those who served our country in troubled times with devotion.

In addition, I will appoint Vietnam veterans to policy making positions in the Veterans Administration. The voice of the Vietnam veteran has too long been absent from the crucial policy making decisions that affect him.

This is the commitment we owe to the men buried overseas and in the national cemeteries throughout our nation, and to our returned veterans, who seek to live productive lives, in peace and with dignity. Let us resolve that a strong America—a united America—a fair America—will preserve peace, honor its servicemen and veterans, and keep faith with those whose vigilance and sacrifice have kept our country free.

NOTE: Released in Plains, Georgia.

Jimmy Carter, Statement on Veterans Day Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347585

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