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News & Events

Mineral Wells, TX
July 3, 2004

Museum Site Dedication Speech - Rear Admiral Jim Lair

Thank you for the kind words. What a beautiful day. Dr. Messinger, ladies and gentlemen, fellow veterans, most especially the Vietnam veterans, and their families who are here today. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this sited museum. I want to give special recognition to Dr. Jim Messinger for all his efforts and the hard work of his war museum--- that will promote an understanding of the Vietnam Era, while honoring those who served. Tomorrow we celebrate the 228th birthday of our great nation and sadly we are again at war. For the next few minutes I would like to share some thoughts about the longest and most unpopular war in which Americans ever fought- the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War spanned twenty years—1955 to 1975. Five presidents and more than two million Americans served in Vietnam. It cost the United States over $150 billion dollars. The Vietnam War was seen from different perspectives by the Vietcong Guerillas, by the sympathizers, by North Vietnamese leadership, by Americans held prisoner in Hanoi, and by home front USA. America viewed the war for the first time from the comfort of their living room on television. America saw up close and personal the good, the bad, and the really ugly realities of war. Americans became restless and divided. Violent protests against the war became a daily event. At Kent State, National Guardsmen killed 4 students and at Jackson State University, students were shot and killed for protesting the war. One mother said “There’re killing our babies in Vietnam and in our own backyard.” Ramsey Clark and Jane Fonda visited Hanoi and proclaimed that our Prisoners of War were being treated humanely while we knew they were being tortured daily. Clark and Fonda were viewed as heroes not traitors. American flags, our symbol of American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, were burned in protest. Americans were learning new phrases- Ho Chi Minh, Tet Offensive, Mekong Delta, Central Highlands, Da Nang, Parrot's Beak, I Corp, Air Mobile, Route Pack Six, Hanoi Hilton, Linebacker, etc. The Military uniform on the streets of America was discouraged because many of our countrymen would spit on them or call them baby killers. The Vietnam service members were the sons and daughters of the veterans of WWII- the greatest generation.

When facing the WWII veterans, Gen. Zinni, a Vietnam veteran and former combat commander, U.S. central commander, had the feeling the old guys seem to say, “How in the hell did you screw it up? We had it right, we did it right, and we fought and we understand and we left this country an incredible legacy and look at where we are.” The Vietnam experience begs the question: did we, the Vietnam veterans let our nation down- absolutely not. I contend that the Vietnam veterans were no fewer heroes than the veterans of WWII. They stepped forward as did their fathers and grandfathers. They formed a brotherhood in blood, surrounded by the greatest mystery of all because men under fire are not moved by the call to duty, or country or the rhetoric of a cause. They fought to survive. They fought for their comrades. If you’re thirsty they’ll share water with you and if you’re hungry his food. In some ways their service to country and valor goes deeper than ever before. Why—because their sacrifices were never truly recognized or appreciated by the American people. The military had lost the trust and confidence of the American establishment. Fifty-eight thousand Americans paid the ultimate sacrifice during Vietnam. I think the following is most fitting tribute to these fallen comrades “If you are able, save a place for them inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may not have always. Take what they have with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take a moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind” Major Michael O’Donnell, Dak To, Vietnam. Would the Vietnam Veterans please rise. Ladies and Gentlemen—our heroes.

At 0745 Central Daylight time on September 11th, 2001, America was deliberately attacked by cowards. In less than two hours we lost 3000 citizens. 5000 children lost a parent. America was once again at war. The cowards that attacked us hate America because we are happy and free and will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose may foe to assure the survival and success of liberty. If these murderers are not destroyed, they will destroy us, our children and our children’s children and our forever. America is where everyone else wants to be because we are the greatest nation in the world. While we are celebrating this 4th of July, our nations 228th birthday, marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, coastguardsmen, and dedicated civilians are on duty throughout the world. They too have stepped forward like their fathers and grandfathers. When president bush addressed the nation and congress after the 9/11 attacks, he looked directly at each service chief and said, “ Their time has come.” The renowned British author Somerset Maugham during the battle of Britain said “if a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose freedom and the irony of it is that if it is wealth and comfort that it values more, it will lose that too.” The war on terror will be long and painful. We must make the terrorist fear us more than they hate us.

As we leave this ceremony today let us remember the lesson of Vietnam—never forget the veteran and their families. They never forget us. May god bless this great land we call America—the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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