Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's Veterans Day Tour of Military Installations.

November 10, 1967

[1.] Remarks at Doughboy Stadium, Fort Benning, Georgia. November 10, 1967

Secretary McNamara, General Johnson, General Wright, Congressman Brinkley, Congressman Pickle, ladies and gentlemen:

This morning I begin a journey and a tribute.

I will visit eight military installations over this Veterans Day weekend.

I bring to each a gift of this Nation's heart--our pride, our admiration, and our gratitude.

I will offer them in the name of the American people to the bravest of America's sons, daughters, and their families.

I go to honor each of the 6 million men and women of our armed services--and the 26 million veterans of this country and the millions of homes whose gifts they are to us all.

I think it is quite fitting that I begin my journey here at Fort Benning, for you are the beginning of so much that ends in glory for your country and hope for every man.

It is here that so much of our hope for peace really begins. It is here that so many dreams of freedom are refreshed. It is here, in this vast arsenal of war, that soldier and family devote life and honor to ending war.

It is a purpose rare and wonderful in the history of nations. Never has mankind found so much to inspire in the midst of so much to fear. Never have men seen the equal of America's armies--men who march not for conquest, but with compassion-men whose courage and convictions command respect instead of fear.

Here is where it starts, in the history and the instruction of Fort Benning. Few posts can match the brightness of your traditions, or the greatness of your role in Vietnam today.

--Here, each week, 1,100 men train as combat infantrymen.

--Here, each day, 11,000 men, from buck private to career officer, receive special Vietnam training.

--Here, each year, 240 classes totaling 55,000 students graduate from the Infantry School. Two-thirds of them go to Vietnam.

--Every Army paratrooper takes his basic jump training here at Fort Benning.

--Hundreds of small-unit leaders are graduates of your special Ranger courses.

--America's first air mobile force trained here, the famous 1st Cavalry Division.

--Since your Army Training Center opened in 1965, it has equipped more than 111,000 soldiers to earn the compliment of that great General Westmoreland, who said of them: "They are the best trained soldiers in the world." And I agree with him. The enemy in Vietnam has learned to agree with him.

Benning is a cradle, a college, and a crossroads. But it is more than fiat.

Benning is a family.

Here and nearby live more than 1,200 families of officers and men who fight at this hour in Vietnam. There are 3,400 military families on this post, and another 8,800 in Columbus and neighboring communities. Another 10,000 families belong to civilians who work here.

For these Americans, Vietnam is no academic question. It is not a topic for cocktail parties, office arguments, or debate from the comfort of some distant sidelines.

These Americans here do not live on the sidelines. Their lives are tied by flesh and blood to Vietnam. Talk does not come cheap for them. The cost of duty is too cruel. The price of patriotism comes too high.

Last night in my office, I read of one of your local families who paid the tragic cost only days ago. Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Stigall, the commander of a First Infantry Division battalion, gave his life in Vietnam. He was a much decorated veteran of 3 years. His wife Marguerite, and daughter Susan, live on Scott Street in Columbus.

If I single out this family today, it is to pay them a tribute in which many of their friends and other local families must sadly share. Many of them are here with us. Others are near in the neighboring communities-whole blocks of homes in some communities-where a loved one is gone or a son is given.

Grief walks with gallantry here. The eyes of the widows and the children show it. The eyes of the fathers and the mothers, and the brothers and the sisters, know it.

And yet the people here walk tall and proud. You can feel the warmth of pride that binds them together. They stand together, giving and taking strength, sharing gallantry and grief, closing ranks in common love of country, and in loyalty to their Nation's cause.

It is a humble task to thank you at the best of times. I have come here today to thank you and to bless you, so that you might take away some comfort for the worst of times.

Fort Benning is many things, among them a military shrine and monument. But the very best that can be said of you, I think, is this: The Benning family displays to all the world the very best of the American family.

And all our American families share the pride and the gratitude that I bring to you. Each of our homes can look into your hearts, through your windows, and find inspiration, stimulation, and pride in your unity. That is the rock of your resolve.

You are a community of courage. You are a family of patriots. That must be our Nation's proud claim, too--if we are to win the peace that will declare "no life was spent in vain."

There is a phrase from our history that says it well. "The cement of this Union is the heart blood of every American."

Thomas Jefferson saw it truly. His faith has long been true of us. All that we have as a Nation we owe to our unity as a people. All that we work for now--the worth of all of our dreams and our sacrifices--hangs on how much unity we bring to the battleground where our beliefs and our future are at test.

At this moment in Vietnam, thousands of young Americans march with Jefferson. Tragically, but selflessly, they spill their "heart's blood" to defend again the vital interests of our Union--and of that wider union of free men who want only to live and to build in peace.

That peace will come more quickly when the enemy of freedom finds no crack in our courage--and no split in our resolve--and no encouragement to prolong his war in the shortness of our patience or the sharpness of our tongues.

The enemy probes our unity now. But it is he who will shatter against it. He will fail because he will hear the answer that America's citizens and citizen soldiers have always given to aggression.

I want to show you an answer.

Here is a soldier's letter that came to me this week from Vietnam. It was written in a foxhole--on the sides of a combat ration box--ham and lima beans--B-2 unit.

Let me read a part of it to you.

"We are in the infantry. We are now in a foxhole at Binh Son and the water in this foxhole isn't too dry. We are not crying about being out here, so there is no reason for the people in the United States to worry about the war. We're doing the fighting, not them .... We're going to win this war if it takes our lives to do it."

I believe them. I believe in you.

I wanted to share this letter with you because it comes from the infantryman--the ordinary but the always extraordinary "dogface" who knows that Fort Benning is the Home of the Infantry--and the infantry is the Queen of the Battle.

And so you will always be the Home of the Brave.

I will travel on this weekend with that thought to lift my heart. And I will leave with you a pledge.

Your bravery will be rewarded.

As it is here that we find the beginning of peace, it will be here that we will celebrate the end of war.

God grant that we may share in that blessed day soon.

Thank all of you so much.

Note: The President spoke at 6:19 p.m. In his opening words he referred to Under Secretary of Transportation Everett Hutchinson, Vice Adm. Paul E. Trimble, Assistant Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, Representative Thomas N. Downing of Virginia, Rear Adm. O. R. Smeder, Chief, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Coast Guard, Rear Adm. Edward C. Allen, Commander, 5th Coast Guard District, Capt. James W. Kincaid, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Reserve Training Center, Yorktown, Va., and Paul L. Sitton, Deputy Under Secretary of Transportation.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's Veterans Day Tour of Military Installations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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