George H.W. Bush on Veterans Day 1991

Statements that Matter

United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection—Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library
Midshipmen march down Fayetteville Street in Raleigh during Navy Day celebrations in October 1942.

In November 1991, President George H. W. Bush delivered remarks at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A veteran himself, Bush trained at the Navy’s World War II pre-flight school on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus. Shot down in the Pacific in 1944, Bush barely escaped the capture, torture, and cannibalism his shipmates suffered at the hands of Japanese captors.”From our fiery birth in 1776 to freedom’s latest triumphs in the Persian Gulf, America’s veterans have always answered the call and given their all whenever tyrants and despots imperiled freedom and democracy. They called World War I ‘the war to end all wars,’ but that was not to be. The Earth was engulfed a second time and Americans of my generation rose up again to defend their homeland and liberate two continents. Fifty years later the memorial to World War II veterans is all around us, an America strong and proud, her proud example lighting the way to liberty.”And yet even with that war’s end, freedom’s work was not complete. First in Korea and then in Vietnam, two more generations of Americans responded with determination and vigor. And today, on this Veterans Day, we owe a special debt to the men and women of Desert Storm. … America rallied behind those who served in Desert Storm, and in a wonderful way, they rallied behind those who so proudly served in Vietnam. It was long overdue, and it was good for the Nation’s soul. America holds a special place in history. As we preserved and strengthened our own democracy, we’ve sought to extend the blessings of liberty throughout the world. The ideals on which this great Nation was founded have taken root in new and fertile lands. …”The United States will always be a force for peace in the world. But the peace we seek is a real peace. The triumph of freedom, and prosperity, not merely the absence of war. We can never know which war will be the last. But we take as our hope the prophecy of Isaiah, that ‘nations shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’ And yes, we hope, we pray, that as the years progress, the face of war will recede into our distant memory. But the memory of our veterans and their sacrifice will never fade.”President Coolidge said long ago, ‘The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.’ We will not forget. America will not forget. We will not forget those who died. We will not forget those who do the hard work of freedom every day.”