Keuka College marked Veterans Day with a presentation by Chris Leahy, associate professor of history and a prayer of remembrance by Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain.
Members of the Penn Yan VFW sounded a 21-gun salute and played Taps at the end of the service held Nov. 9 at the World War II memorial.
Leahy’s remarks follow:
“Sixteen million men and women served for the United States in some military capacity in World War II; 10 million men served in combat. These men are dying at a rate of nearly 1,000 per day.
“1, 789,000 served in combat during the Korean War; these men are also dying at a rapid rate.
“8,744,000 served in combat in Vietnam; 698,000 men and women served during the first Persian Gulf War.
“1,048,844 troops have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. One-third of them served more than one tour. Of course, men and women are combat veterans now.
“Our veterans hold a special place in the hearts of many Americans—indeed, should hold a special place in the hearts of all Americans.
“When Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, addressed the troops on June 6, 1944, as he launched Operation Overload, the Normandy invasion of D-Day, he spoke simply.
“’Full victory—nothing else,’ he said.
“The brave men who stormed the beaches that day and made their way to the cliffs overlooking those beaches, took those words to heart. Forty years later, on the anniversary of that day, President Ronald Reagan was in Normandy. He honored these men with an eloquent and moving speech.
“’These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,’” he said. ‘These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.’”
“He told them: ‘Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.
“’The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge—and pray God we have not lost it—that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.’
“President Reagan spoke these words to the World War II veterans who fought so valiantly on D-Day. But he could well have spoken them to veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, or the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As could these words, again, forcefully spoken by President Reagan:
“’You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.’
“Reagan concluded his speech with words that could and should inspire us, as Americans, as we honor our veterans:
“’Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.’
“Veterans of foreign wars, thank you for your service to our country.”