At exactly the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, CNMI and military officials, dignitaries, veterans, active service members, family members, and others came together at the Court of Honor of the American Memorial Park yesterday for a solemn but heartfelt Veterans Day ceremony.
Recalling Eloy S. Inos’ words to describe those who fought and died for the islands 70 years ago during World War II, Lt. Gov. Jude Hofschneider said they are what we call now our “true beacons of hope and valor.”
In his speech, Hofschneider told the audience that veterans were also honored exactly in the same area just this June, when a visiting cruise ship on its way to Iwo Jima made a brief stop on Saipan.
“Last June, we as a community welcomed to our islands these individuals, weathered by the onset of age, who were making a return trip to a remote place they first visited 70 years ago, to help free our elders from the ravages of war. …We greeted them the only way we know how, with love and gratitude,” Hofschneider said.
“Today, we reunite in honor again at this park, born from the sacrifice of a great nation, in the shadow of its Court of Honor to pay tribute to the strong, to the brave, to the men and women in uniform and the work they do for our islands and our country,” he added.
The ceremony’s keynote speaker, Brig. Gen. John E. Cardwell, commander of the 9th Mission Support Command in Fort Shafter, said that to truly honor veterans, “we must follow the three Rs: Remember, Respond, and Resolve.”
“The first is to remember. …We must know what they have done for us. The greatest tragedy for any veteran is to be forgotten. Here on Saipan, there are many things to remind us of our veterans, but do we really remember? So where do we start?
“Earlier, I asked everyone who had a family member who was a veteran. I ask each of you now—do you know their story? Do you know their journeys, their ordeals, their sacrifices? Even if you do not have a family member that served, I challenge all of you to learn the story of one of our many local veterans. All too often, the stories of our veterans are too soon lost to fading memories,” Cardwell said.
Remembering their stories, however, is only part of how to honor veterans, he said.
“We must respond to the needs of our living veterans, veterans who are our family members, and our neighbors. …We must respond with our time, our money, our voice, and our hearts. There are many great local organizations that could use our time and our money. We can all make a difference locally. …It is one thing to be forgotten when we are gone, but unforgivable to ignore the needs of our veterans while they are still living. Those veterans, who bear the scars, wounds, strains, and burdens of military service they chose to bear for all of us, need us to respond,” Cardwell said.
His last “R”—resolve—means that after remembering the sacrifices of veterans and responding to their needs, “we must resolve to live our lives in ways that honor all veterans.”
“Our veterans paid a price for all of us to have the freedoms we all enjoy and we must work every day to repay that debt. To truly honor their actions, we must take action and not take for granted our freedoms,” he said.
“All around us we see memorials to our veterans, but we can take it one step further and become living memorials for our veterans. Living memorials who resolve not to waste a single day of the freedom we enjoy. For when we resolve to do so, then all the souls of veterans, living and past, can rejoice in knowing that the sacrifices they made yesterday are still allowing all of us today to build a better tomorrow.”
“Our freedoms might have been endowed by our Creator, but they have been protected time and time again by our veterans. …The world does not measure a country’s greatness on its yesterdays but on today. We must remember, respond, and resolve.”