On Memorial Day, we come together as a nation to pay tribute to the brave Americans who have lost their lives in defense of the nation that they loved, and we mourn anew alongside our cherished Gold Star and surviving families.
In this first Memorial Day since the end of America’s longest war, we remember the 2,461 U.S. service members and personnel who fell in Afghanistan. We will never forget the sacrifice that they and their families made to this country.
When troops enlist, their families serve right alongside them. Their sacrifice and devotion are what makes our armed forces so strong. It is our sacred obligation to support our military families, especially those who have paid the most unthinkable price.
Our troops do not just defend our country; they defend the principles of our democracy and our Constitution. Since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the world has seen again the power of ordinary citizens and soldiers to resist aggression and tyranny, and I hope that the inspiring resilience of the people of Ukraine will remind us all never to take our freedom and democracy for granted.
We rededicate ourselves today to the values and principles that our fallen forces gave their lives to defend. So let us remember these patriots with a renewed commitment to making our country worthy of their sacrifice, to keeping their families close to our hearts, and to advancing the democratic ideals for which so many have given so much.
Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Veterans Day Nov. 10, 2021
On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense — those currently serving — I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who have come before us.
Veterans Day is a unique opportunity for us to reflect upon the service and sacrifice of our predecessors, to recognize the broad shoulders upon which we now stand. In peace and in war, spanning generations all the way back to the very founding of this country, fellow Americans have defended our democracy, advanced our security interests, fought our wars and preserved our way of life.
Some never returned to society the same as when they left home for boot camp. Some never returned at all. But all of them, living and dead, are owed a great debt. And all of them – as well as their families – are due our deepest respect.
That’s why we in the Department of Defense continue to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the transition to civilian life is as seamless as possible for everyone serving today. And it’s why we are working so hard to provide the best medical and mental health care possible for those whose military service has concluded. We must prove capable of treating the wounds we see, as well as the ones we cannot see.
We must also ensure, as a nation, that the growth, development and opportunities for veterans persist well after they take off the uniform. From education to employment opportunities, we in the Department will continue to make sure our transitioning members understand fully and can secure the benefits available to them and to their families.
And we thank those families as well, for they served our country every bit as our veterans did. Through frequent moves and deployments and the stress and strain of everyday military life, they made possible what our troops made possible for national defense.
Finally, we should remember that many veterans still serve this country. From community volunteering to leadership at the highest levels in both the private and public sectors, veterans make an enormous difference. They run companies. They run non-profits. They run for office. They still lead and inform and motivate others to succeed and to serve.
On this Veterans Day, I hope that lesson in particular is one not lost on anyone. And I take comfort in knowing that in communities large and small across this land, the American people continue to find ways to reach out and support our veterans – who they know as their neighbors and teachers and coaches and friends.
So, to our predecessors — our veterans and your brave families — thank you for the service you rendered in uniform and for that service you still render our great country. We honor you today, and we remember you always.