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Governor Mitt Romney, Remarks at the Boston State House Veteran’s Day, 2006


Good morning.


In the past four years, I have spoken with service men and women from every part of our Commonwealth. I have met their families – parents, wives and husbands, and children. We have spoken in the anxious days and hours before deployment to far-off and dangerous places. And, I’ve welcomed our service men and women home.


Their sacrifices inspire – there’s the star athlete who now walks with a cane, the proud hero who taught himself how to tie his shoes with an aluminum arm. And then, there were others who did not return. Army Lt. Derek Hines, a 25-year-old known for his love of hockey and infectious grin, was struck down in a firefight in Afghanistan. I met yesterday with the grieving 20-year-old widow of Edward Garvin, Lance Corporal – she and her husband were best friends since the 2nd grade, then sweethearts. He was killed 40 days after his deployment to Iraq.


In these last few years, I have attended almost 40 funerals and wakes. Every fallen soldier, every wounded veteran, every grieving loved one, paid the price for freedom and for peace. All they require of us is to care for those they left behind, to console and to shelter, and to remember the immeasurable debt we owe.


New heroes are paying the price, even today. I fear that freedom will always exact a heavy toll, until perhaps, at last, the Creator will say, “It is finished.” Oh how I wish peace and freedom could be won without so dear a price, without conflict, without soldiers, without war, without death. The history of mankind tells a very different story. Think of the human toll: the people who died in the last century because of organized violence was over 160 million.


The sad lesson of history is that war is not a rare or random occurrence that can be wished away by those of us who love peace. In the years since our nation’s founding, no American has reached their 50th birthday without having lived through at least two major U.S. wars.


The best ally of peace is a strong America, an America with unparalleled strength and resolve, an America fully engaged in every imaginable effort to pursue peace, and an America committed to lead others toward liberty. As Ronald Reagan once said, “I have seen four wars during my lifetime and none of them began because America was too strong.”


This day marks the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War -- at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 88 years ago. Some claimed that World War I was “the war to end all wars,” but they had forgotten the lessons of history. General Douglas MacArthur, himself a veteran of World War I, said that old soldiers never die, they just fade away. Almost all of the nearly 5 million American veterans of that war have faded away with General MacArthur.


But, astonishingly, there are two Massachusetts citizens, veterans of that awful conflict, who are alive today. Please hold your applause until I’ve introduced them both.


Antonio Pierro of Swampscott was an Army Private in the 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 82d Division. He fought in France at the battle of St. Michel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the final campaign of the war. If life is a journey, Private Pierro’s life is an expedition: He was born in 1896 in a small town in Italy. What a long way he has traveled: from the 19th Century to the 21st; from a mountaintop village in Italy to Swampscott, Massachusetts.


Russell Buchanan, of Watertown, tried to join the Marines to fight in World War One, but he was turned down. He turned to the Navy, but at 115 pounds, he didn’t weigh enough to meet the Navy’s 118-pound cutoff. So he worked hard, gained the extra three pounds, and joined the Navy in July of 1918. His duty to serve didn’t end there either: sensing that America would soon enter World War II, he enlisted again, 10 months before Pearl Harbor. This time he joined the Army, where he served as a technical sergeant and was sent to Europe as a member of 26th Yankee Division of General George Patton’s 3d Army.


Gentleman, will you please stand so that we may recognize you? (Long applause)


There is a great continuous chain of service, linking every American generation – past, present, and future – through love of this country and all that it stands for. Every veteran is a link in that chain. They are the senior members in the half-a-million strong group of proud military veterans in our Commonwealth.


Recognition takes on many forms. We have our disagreements in politics, but making sure that our veterans are honored and appreciated is one issue that all but erases party differences. I’d like to thank the legislature for working with me to enact important measures like the Welcome Home Bill to help ensure that Massachusetts veterans and Guard personnel receive the benefits they deserve.


But none of that ever balances the scale: there is nothing that we can do to match our gratitude for the men and women who risk everything they have to defend this nation. America will always be producing veterans, as long as there are people outside our borders who hate freedom and people inside them who love it.

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