ADM Phil Davidson
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
Honoring Our Heroes in Hawai'i
Veterans Day Ceremony – Oahu Veterans Council
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, HI
November 11, 2019
As Prepared for Delivery
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and aloha!
Thank you, Larry, for the kind introduction, and for inviting me to participate in this wonderful ceremony. I’d rather be here than anywhere else today.
I would like to recognize the Oahu Veterans Council, the Navy League Honolulu Council, and the great State of Hawaii for supporting today’s ceremony. Thank you to retired Rear Admiral Alma Grocki for her leadership and to everyone who helped make this such a successful event.
I would like to extend a warm welcome to Governor and Mrs. Ige. Thank you, Governor, for your inspiring words. It is always a pleasure to join you at ceremonies like today, where we honor our heroes in Hawai’i.
I would also like to welcome:
Our federal, state, city and community leaders;
Esteemed members of our consular and diplomatic corps;
Fellow flag and general officers;
Distinguished guests; and
To all of our United States Armed Forces veterans and their families who are here with us today.
Thank you for helping to commemorate this day and for supporting the brave men and women who answered the call to serve our Nation.
I always remind people of the history of this commemoration. Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day began over a century ago with the signing of the armistice between the Allies and the Germans in 1918 – the order to cease hostilities during World War I – on the 11th hour…of the 11th day…of the 11th month.
Eight years later, Congress passed a resolution to recognize this historic anniversary on an annual basis “with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”
Although the federal holiday has evolved over the years, the United States remains committed to perpetuating peace, prosperity, and security alongside our allies and partners around the world – today is certainly a reminder.
Here in the Pacific, the rules-based, international order that emerged following World War II has helped to lift billions out of poverty. It established a security framework and promoted a set of values that has promoted liberty, peace and prosperity, and it has helped serve to benefit all nations.
Indeed, our American values must remain at the heart of our efforts to support our nation’s continuing vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
When I say “Free,” I mean free, both in terms of traditional security (free from coercion by other nations) and in terms of values and political systems.
Free societies respect individual rights and liberties, the promotion of good governance, and adherence to the shared values of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Free also means nations do not have to choose with whom they partner or trade out of fear or coercion. Instead, they are free to exercise their sovereignty – and their choice.
When I say “open,” I mean all nations should enjoy unfettered, open access to the seas and airways upon which our people and economies depend.
According to this vision, nations are able to have open investment environments, transparent agreements between one another, protection of intellectual property rights, and fair and reciprocal trade.
I say it all the time: our oceans, seas and airways are not borders, they are not boundaries…they are what bind us together, bringing mutual benefits, economic growth, and shared values.
The United States is a constitutional republic, with values focused on representative government, human rights, and individual liberties.
And as I travel throughout the region, it is clear that truly free nations want to stand with America. Our values are underpinned by the most honorable and glorious gifts remanded to us by our founding fathers… life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
One need only look around the region to witness how our liberties would be in jeopardy without United States’ leadership in maintaining the rules-based, international order, and the commitment of our strong servicemen and women who help extend and protect our values.
These values are even more important today as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and attempts to override other nations’ sovereignty.
These are threats to the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific… from the crackdown on those protesting the erosion of their liberties in Hong Kong, to the enslavement of Uighers in Xinjiang… and on to other threats like the predations of ISIS in East Asia in the Philippines, to the danger of ballistic missile attacks from North Korea… it is easy to understand how the defense of civil liberties, religious freedom, indeed, the very preservation of “life” and “liberty” are as necessary today as any time in our history.
Our veterans past, and the servicemen and women of today, have helped to preserve our freedom, promote peace and prosperity, and protect our liberties in the face of dangers like these since the founding of the republic.
Today, this moment, as we enjoy the beautiful Hawaiian weather here in O’ahu, our deployed servicemen and women are working to preserve those ties that bind us abroad.
Indeed, they are defending our nation and the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. On watch today from Hawaii or throughout the region,
the U-S Army’s 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command is deployed in Korea and Japan, working with our allies and partners to defend U-S and allied territory from ballistic missile attack.
B-52s from the U.S Air Force and their tankers from Hawaii are operating from the U.S. territory of Guam, assuring our allies of our commitment and deterring our adversaries;
the Marine Corp’s 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment is deployed to Japan, providing vital quick reaction capabilities in support of mutual defense in the region;
the U.S. Navy's attack submarine USS MISSISSIPPI is operating undetected throughout the western Pacific to dissuade our adversaries from direct conventional and nuclear attacks on U-S citizens and territory;
the U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue aircraft crews with an HC-130H from Barber’s Point is deployed to El Salvador and partnered with U.S. law enforcement to help prevent drugs from entering the United States; and
the Hawai’i National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery Regiment, is deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL – to prevent attacks on U.S. soil by terrorists there.
I must add that our nation benefits from U-S service ties with the Freely Associated States of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. These ties stretch back to our shared heritage as seafaring nations, and the bonds we forged during World War II.
Despite their relative size and small population, citizens from Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands disproportionately serve in high numbers per capita in all of our U.S. armed forces. Their service to our country helps defend the United States, reinforce our mutual security, and forge enduring ties between our nations.
We honor their service, which means so much to the Freely Associated States…to the United States…and certainly, to those of us in Hawai’i.
I would be remiss if I did not mention some of our veterans from Hawaii as well. Men and women, like
Brigadier General Irwin Cockett, a highly decorated Veteran of Korea and Vietnam who previously served as the director of the Office of Veterans Services, and who shares the stage with me today;
Captain Rona Adams, a Bronze Star Veteran of Vietnam and the President of the Vietnam Veterans of America Hawai’i Chapter; and
Sergeant Tommy Nakaido, a WWII Veteran and member of the Order of the Purple Heart.
Governor Ige mentioned the 100,000 Veterans and the many veterans’ groups who call Hawai’i home.
These groups are vital to maintaining the spirit of all who have gone before them, keeping the spirit of liberty alive in every one of us.
Please join me in thanking all of our Veterans for their selfless service to our great Nation.
I’d like to leave you with one final thought.
As you depart this ceremony and go about the remainder of your day, I encourage you to find the time to reflect on a veteran who influenced your life – perhaps a relative, close friend, coworker, neighbor, mentor…any veteran.
In your own way, thank that individual for their service and for the impact they had on you, your family, and your country.
For the veterans in attendance, take this same opportunity to reflect on the individuals who supported you and made it possible for you to serve. Undoubtedly, the success of our military relies heavily on the support of our friends and family. I know I would not be here today without the support of my loved ones and the American public we all serve.
Thank you again for showing support on this Veterans Day.
May God bless the men and women of our Armed Forces – past, present, and future – and every one of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen who stepped forward to defend our Nation.
May God bless the beautiful state of Hawai'i...and may God bless the United States of America.