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Home Current Affairs Sack on Service: Mayor's Vet Day Remarks

Sack on Service: Mayor’s Vet Day Remarks

Rye Post #128 of the American Legion hosted the Rye City’s annual Veterans Day observance on Tuesday. Rye Mayor Joe Sack sent along a copy of his remarks:

Veterans Day remarks
Mayor Joe Sack
November 11, 2014

Father Lim, elected officials, Rye residents, distinguished guests, Legionnaires of Rye Post 128, and all United States military veterans:

It is a privilege for me to be invited to address you on Veterans Day. At the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. The hour and day and month when, in 1918, the Armistice came and World War I ended. And today, the hour, day and month when we honor all veterans who served our country at all times, whether in times of war or times of peace.

The American Legion is kind to invite me to deliver these brief welcoming remarks. But I know full well that this invitation was extended to me not because of who I am, but rather because of the office which I am fortunate enough to hold, and as mayor I am the symbol of and today the spokesperson for the people of the City of Rye, in expressing our gratitude for what you, our veterans, have done for our country, and done for us, to protect our lives, our liberty and our way of life.

In a way, I am not an obvious choice to speak and fill this role on Veterans Day, as I am not a military veteran myself. I have no idea what it is like to take up arms in the defense of the United States of America, to put myself in harm’s way, to risk losing my life for others and something larger than myself, and to watch up close as brothers and sisters in arms make tremendous sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice.

But I can marvel at all this, and I do. And I can raise my voice on behalf of others, and add my voice together with the voices of others, to give eternal thanks for this service, as the beneficiary of this service. I am grateful. We are all grateful.

Perhaps it is because of my personal lack of military service, combined with my sincere gratitude for this thing which I do not fully understand, yet this thing which I know I cannot survive in this world without, that I have, especially recently, found myself drawn to books written by military veterans.

These are books about modern day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Books providing first-hand accounts of the experiences in battle of the members of the armed services, and their experiences in re-entering civilian life, with all the physical and emotional scars that war can leave. Some of these books are well known, some less so. But no matter how much acclaim these books have received, they have found their way onto my bookshelves, and into my consciousness.

The Long Walk by Brian Castner and Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch are both memoirs which provide personal and poignant reflections of combat duty in Iraq. And Redeployment by Phil Klay conveys the truth of battle and its aftermath in the form of fictional stories, in a gripping and unvarnished way.

These books are welcome and revelatory to me, the non-veteran. By reading them, I hope to gain greater understanding, and with this understanding, I hope to develop a deeper appreciation, and with this appreciation, I hope to be able to show respect to veterans in a more informed way.

Veterans do not only come to life in the pages of a book. They exist before us in the flesh, here today and across America. And today is the day in particular, above other days during the year when it is often easy to forget, when we say thank you. Thank you.

This past Saturday, I went to see the United States Military Academy football team play a contest against a foe at Yankee Stadium. The players fought hard, but this was sport, not life and death. However, one small detail stood out to me, and served as a reminder of the cadets’ higher calling, even in the midst of the game. On the back of the Army jerseys, above the uniform number, where most other teams would have the individual player’s name, each shirt had instead the same simple but powerful inscription: Duty, Honor, Country.

Thank you veterans of Rye, and veterans everywhere, today and every day. God Bless Rye and God Bless America.

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