(From our archives):
The Dauntless Heart
Veterans have been defending our freedom since before there even was a United States of America.
Teddy Roosevelt once said "I have a perfect horror of words that are not backed up by deeds."
Our vets have backed up their word by their deeds...and then some. Let Teddy speak:
"Let the men who talk lightly about its being unnecessary for us now to have an army and navy adequate for the work of this nation in the world remember that such utterances are not merely foolish, for in their effects they may at any time be fraught with disaster and disgrace to the nation's honor as well as disadvantage to its interest. Let them take to heart some of the lessons which should be learned by the study of the War of 1812.
As a people we are too apt to remember only that some of our ships did well in that war. We had a few ship--a very few ships--and they did so well as to show the utter folly of not having enough of them. Thanks to our folly as a nation, thanks to the folly that found expression in the views of those at the seat of government, not a ship of any importance had been built within a dozen years before the war began, and the Navy was so small that, when once the war was on, our opponents were able to establish a close blockade throughout the length of our coast, so that not a ship could go from one port to another, and all traffic had to go by land. Our parsimony in not preparing an adequate navy (which would have prevented the war) cost in the end literally thousands of dollars for every one dollar we thus foolishly saved. After two years of that war an utterly inconsiderable British force of about four thousand men was landed here in the bay, defeated with ease a larger body of raw troops put against it, and took Washington.
I am sorry to say that those of our countrymen who now speak of the deed usually confine themselves to denouncing the British for having burned certain buildings in Washington. They had better spare their breath. The sin of the invaders in burning the buildings is trivial compared with the sin of our own people in failing to make ready an adequate force to defeat the attempt. This nation was guilty of such shortsightedness, of such folly, of such lack of preparation that it was forced supinely to submit to the insult and was impotent to avenge it; and it was only the good fortune of having in Andrew Jackson a great natural soldier that prevented a repetition of the disaster at New Orleans. Let us remember our own shortcomings, and see to it that the men in public life to-day are not permitted to bring about a state of things by which we should in effect invite a repetition of such a humiliation.
We can afford as a people to differ on the ordinary party questions; but if we are both farsighted and patriotic we can not afford to differ on the all-important question of keeping the national defenses as they should be kept; of not alone keeping up, but of going on with building up of the United States Navy, and of keeping our small Army at least at its present size and making it the most efficient for its size that there is on the globe.
Remember, you here who are listening to me, that to applaud patriotic sentiments and to turn out to do honor to the dead heroes who by land or by sea won honor for our flag is only worth while if we are prepared to show that our energies do not exhaust themselves in words; if we are prepared to show that we intend to take to heart the lessons of the past and make things ready so that if ever, which heaven forbid, the need should arise, our fighting men on sea and ashore shall be able to rise to the standard established by their predecessors in our services of the past.
Those of you who are in public life have a moral right to be here at this celebration today only if you are prepared to do your part in building up the Navy of the present; for otherwise you have no right to claim lot or part in the glory and honor and renown of the Navy's past.
...Remember that no courage can ever atone for lack of that preparedness which makes the courage valuable; and yet if the courage is there, if the dauntless heart is there, its presence will sometimes make up for other shortcomings; while if with it are combined the other military qualities the fortunate owner becomes literally invincible."--President Theodore Roosevelt on the interment of John Paul Jones at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, April 24, 1906.
Politicians come and go. But always the dauntless hearts of America's citizen-soldiers beat steady and true--and never more so than today.
Around here, it's always Veteran's Day. If you're free--thank a vet.