A Day To Remember Those Who Served

Yale celebrated Veterans Day on Nov. 11 with a ceremony on Hewitt Quadrangle that included remarks by members of the campus community who served in the armed forces. The following are excerpts from the speech by Michael F. Breen, a third-year law student and former U.S. Army captain. The full text of his speech can be found on www.law.yale.edu/10639.htm.

… For most of us, Veterans Day is a day to give thanks. For those who have served, it is also a day to remember. …


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Veterans Day Ceremony 2009

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I remember a squad leader tackling a dazed private in Afghanistan, sheltering the young man with his body to shield him from the flying wreckage of a crashing helicopter. I remember a young medic dashing into mortar fire in Iraq without his body armor, just because one of his buddies might be injured. I remember a soldier giving his two weeks of leave to a friend who was having a rough time, volunteering to spend his holiday in Afghanistan instead of with his family in Ohio. …

We remember those who did not return. … We who fought with them, who knew them at their best, have an enduring and unending duty to the fallen. We must ensure that their names and lives are not forgotten by the nation they died to defend.

We remember those who serve now. … Right now, an Army sergeant defends a combat outpost on an Afghan mountaintop, straining his ears into the night for enemy footsteps. Right now, a Navy submariner is enduring another month without sunlight, on patrol beneath the ocean. Right now, an Air Force pilot is hurtling through the night sky, trying to refuel her jet in midair through night vision goggles. Right now, a Marine is sitting down to break bread with an Iraqi tribal elder. All of them are volunteers. …

Their service — our service, the service of every veteran in this courtyard today — is and was an act of faith.

An act of faith in our Constitution, our system of government and our ideals. An act of faith in the officers appointed over us, and in our elected, civilian leaders. But most of all, an act of faith in the American people themselves, in the sound judgment and integrity of the American character. …

We owe it to them to ensure that our system of government and our collective judgment justifies their faith. We owe it to them to ensure that this democratic republic of ours remains worthy of their sacrifice, and the service of future generations.

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