Proposed Remarks for Governor Paul Patton
Veterans Day 1998
Kentucky Vietnam Memorial
Were gathered here today to honor the ultimate sacrifice made by fellow Kentuckians and the sacrifices of all veterans in all of Americas conflicts and wars.
Its fitting that were here at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, November 11, since todays the date of the Armistice of World War I, which over the years has become Veterans Day.
In Kentucky, beginning today, well recognize Veterans Day every November 11th, which is the right thing to do.
We must reserve this time in our busy lives to honor special friends and important sacrifices for our Nation.
Over one thousand Kentuckians are memorialized on this magnificent plaza and sundial.
This monument represents the kinship and brotherhood that all Kentuckians feel toward those citizens who gave their lives for our deep and lasting commitment to peace and freedom.
Monuments can be sad places, but they can also be places of rededication, reflection, and remembrance of the young lives that ended too soon.
This monument was designed and built by a talented Kentuckian, Helm Roberts, whos with us today.
The simplicity of the sundial, that casts its shadow on the name of each Kentuckian on the date of his death, is a powerful image for us to consider.
This memorials about time. Some of us get more than others, many of us waste it early in our lives but then begin to selfishly protect it as you would your last few rounds of ammunition in a battle.
Times what links us to the past. Its said that: "Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors."
We cant honor those citizens at this memorial without remembering all who sacrificed for family, friends, and country.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, five were captured by the British as traitors and were tortured before they died.
Nine signers fought and died as Revolutionary soldiers.
Twelve of them had their homes pillaged and burned to the ground, seventeen lost everything they owned.
Despite this, not one of the signers of the Declaration defected or changed his stand throughout the Revolution.
When Thomas Jefferson defied the Barbary pirates in 1804 for attacks on our newly formed Navy, a Kentuckian from Russellville, John O'Bannon ,led the attack on the north African coast near Tripoli which ended the harassment.
His actions are memorialized in the opening stanza of the Marine Corps Hymn and the Marine sword used today is a replica of the sword presented to him by the mayor of the captured city.
Another Kentuckian, Major Robert Anderson, was the commander at Ft. Sumter when the first shots were fired in our own terrible Civil War and countless thousands sacrificed their lives, while all citizens shared the terrible losses.
The first American casualty of World War 1 was Private Gresham, a Kentuckian.
His anguished mother, when pressed to describe her feelings, replied, "I am no hero, I am just a Mother who has lost a son!"
Americans have sacrificed for their country in countless wars, "police" actions, and modern day military interventions, sometimes with total support as in World War II, but more often with less than total support.
Time has a way of healing as "the ideals of yesterday become the truths of today."
We must never forget that the sacrifice of a single person is as important as any other and thats why this memorial remains so powerful.
Each citizen's name is here forever and the profound importance of his sacrifice is always with us, with each sunrise and sunset.
We must continue to remember why we gather here today and pass that importance on to future generations.
Its been said, "Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers". In many ways the Vietnam generation reflected this saying more than others.
These Kentuckians were family, friends, and neighbors, and are now honored forever as are those other Kentuckians missing in action or prisoners of war.
Well never rest until there is a full accounting of them.
These heroes are tied to our fundamental belief in a higher authority as the scripture from Ecclesiates reminds us that there is a "time for everything."
We proudly and reverently display the symbol of our POWs and MIAs at this monument on special days and year round at the state military monument in the Frankfort cemetery to remind us of the POWs and MIAs of all wars.
The Vietnam War changed our society and a generation of youth who were caught between ill-defined national goals and the instinctive need to keep promises.
Disagreements about the war should not overshadow the service of Americans or diminish the quality of their service.
These young Kentuckians were like generations of young men and women before them, no different than the patriots at Bunker Hill, Perryville, or Normandy.
They served because they believed our "experiment in democracy" continues to be the best form of human government devised by men. .
Who would say that the battles of Hue, Khe Sanh, and the Iron Triangle were less important to our history than battles in other wars?
Who s to say the blood shed by these young Kentuckians was less pure or virtuous than the blood of veterans from other wars?
Americans who served in the Vietnam era did so with the same distinction and honor as did their fathers and mothers in the world wars and Korea.
Those soldiers memorialized here had "the right stuff" and without people like them wed be less free than we are today.
We dont want to glorify war and its tragic costs, but the main theme of the recent WWII movie, Saving Private Ryan, stressed the importance of a single life to Americans.
Americans believe in helping others and weve always done so.
Lt John J. Crittenden, the grandson and namesake of the famous Kentucky statesman, was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn shortly after his twenty-first birthday, and his sacrifice is memoralized on the state monument in the Frankfort cemetery, a single person whos still remembered for his unselfishness.
World War II was a global war that involved Kentuckians at home and abroad.
Kentuckys rich heritage in answering the call of service to our nation is perhaps illustrated best by Breathitt County--a county that never had to draft a single man.
Kentuckians are steeped in the tradition of helping neighbors whether its across the hill or across the ocean.
The Korean Conflict and the veterans who served thereve been shortchanged for their sacrifices--once again sacrifices that are no less valuable than those of veterans in all wars.
The importance of individual resolve is no more evident than in this monument and how it came to be built ten years ago on this site.
A group of Kentucky Vietnam veterans decided to build a monument to their fallen comrades.
They had no money, no political power, and there was little public awareness that a monument was even needed .
Through their tireless efforts , help from former Governors, and the generosity of many donors, this monument was dedicated ten years ago, debt free!
So as we celebrate Veterans Day and the tenth anniversary of the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans memorial, let us rededicate ourselves to always remembering the sacrifice thats etched in these stones and in this place.
Remember our fellow Kentuckians who were raised in our towns and on our farms, and unselfishly left our beautiful Commonwealth to insure peace and freedom for all of us.