In the earliest days, even before our country was born, they came from farms and small towns, all of them volunteers in the service of the greater good.
When the alarm was sounded at Lexington and Concord, many dropped their shovels to rush to the battle -- and a nation was forged.
From Valley Forge to Bull Run, from the Argonne Forest to Iwo Jima, Americans have always answered the call.
At Pork Chop Hill, during the Tet Offensive, following 9/11 and across the globe today, the men and women who have worn -- and still wear -- this country’s uniform have carried on the proud tradition of defending our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Just as it’s always been, these are ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Of the more than 16 million men and women who won that war, and saved the world, less than one million remain.
As we slowly bid farewell to that Greatest Generation we would do well to honor the great generations that have followed, who continue to meet the high standards and traditions of the men and women who came before them.
Today there are about 19 million living Veterans in the United States.
California is home to almost 2 million Veterans, more than any other state.
Nearly one-quarter million of those Veterans live in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Today, far less than 1 percent of our population is defending us in the Global War on Terrorism.
They are all volunteers who signed up and serve knowing they may someday be called on to pay the ultimate price for freedom.
Yet there are some who seem intent on trying to balance the federal budget by diminishing programs and medical care designed -- as President Lincoln said 150 years ago -- “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
We must do everything that we can to make sure our Veterans get the care, training and jobs they both need and deserve.
Let us continue to honor our Veterans, not just on this day, but every day.
And let us never forget the debt we owe to each and every one of them.