SALT LAKE CITY – In advance of Veterans Day on Monday, November 12, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released the following tribute to America’s veterans:
We owe so much to our nation’s veterans. As Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Fortunately, throughout our nation’s history, millions of brave Americans have willingly waged that fight, and many of them have paid the ultimate price to preserve our liberties. The same is true of our veterans today in such far-flung places as Afghanistan and the Middle East. They have, as Abraham Lincoln said, met the test of proving that our nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to proposition that all men are created equal … can long endure.”
Today, America does endure, thanks in large measure to our veterans. Many of them are Utahns who live in our cities, towns and neighborhoods – people like my neighbor, 90-year-old Salt Lake City resident Donald Pickett, to whom I recently had the privilege of awarding a third Bronze Star for his heroism 67 years ago during a battle in Germany.
In Provo, there is Gail Halvorsen, better known as the famed “Candy Bomber.” An Air Force pilot of a C-54 aircraft during the Berlin Airlift, Halvorsen dropped candy-laden parachute bundles to hungry German children during the Russian blockade of Berlin. All told, Halvorsen and other pilots parachuted 3million pounds of chocolate, gum and other candy, thus earning him the lasting affection of Berliners, who still regard him as a hero to this day.
And who can forget retired Air Force pilot Bernard Fisher, who was raised in Clearfield and received our nation’s highest military award? During the Vietnam War, he braved almost-certain death or capture to rescue Major D.W. Myers, a fellow pilot who had been shot down and had taken shelter on an airfield surrounded by 2,000 hostile North Vietnamese troops.
With the enemy closing in and U.S. helicopters too far away to effect a rescue, Fisher swept into action. He quickly landed his 2-seat A-1 Skyraider on the debris-filled runway, loaded Myers into the empty seat, took off and escaped amid a hail of bullets. For “conspicuous gallantry” and risking his life “above and beyond the call of duty,” Fisher was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Other Utah veterans have not been so fortunate. Sgt. Nathan Barnes, of American Fork, was shot to death by Iraqi insurgents in 2007. U.S. Army Corp. Raphael Arruda, of South Ogden, died last year from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. And U.S. Marine Sgt. Gurr, of the Uintah Basin, was struck down in that country by small arms fire that same year.
And the list goes on.
Like you, I often reflect on their costly sacrifice, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the dear friends and loved ones they left behind. I also think about our living veterans – the survivors of past conflicts whose ranks have been thinned by time and our brave men and women who are currently serving.
As we observe Veterans Day, let us not forget to pay tribute to all our veterans and thank them for their service. And, paraphrasing Lincoln, may we rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work they have fought for to ensure that our “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
God bless you.