U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today honored the brave men and women of the U.S. military, especially those throughout South Dakota, ahead of the Veterans Day holiday. Thune expressed his gratitude and reverence for the selflessness of devoting one’s life to service and sacrifice on behalf of the American people. Thune also discussed the recent progress with a COVID vaccine and the status of the 2020 presidential election results.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I want to acknowledge the tremendous news released yesterday that early tests of a COVID vaccine are showing a greater than 90 percent rate of effectiveness.
“This is great news, and a testament to the innovative power of the private sector and the efforts of Congress and the Trump administration to expedite the development of COVID vaccines.
“The trials for this vaccine will continue, and FDA approval will be required, but these early results are very encouraging.
“It’s been a rough year for Americans – and people all over the world – but hopefully this is a sign that the light at the end of the tunnel is coming.
“Mr. President, we’re now a week on from the election, but there are still a lot of outstanding races to determine.
“Votes are still being counted, or will soon be recounted, in many states.
“The presidential race has yet to be certified (it’s important to remember that while media outlets can predict a winner, official results come later).
“And there are still House and Senate races that have yet to be decided.
“One thing is clear though.
“The ‘blue wave’ that Democrats, pollsters, and the media predicted was coming did not arrive.
“Americans emphatically did not endorse the socialist aims of the far left.
“Instead, they sent a much more moderate message.
“And I hope that when all the votes are counted and the outcomes of all the races are determined, Democrats will be able to overcome the virulent partisanship that characterized their behavior over the past four years and actually work with Republicans to deliver results for the American people.
“Mr. President, tomorrow we celebrate Veterans Day, the day set aside to honor all those who have served in the United States armed forces.
“This year, we observed the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“And our nation’s World War II veterans – the veterans of the Greatest Generation – have been on my mind a lot this year.
“16 million Americans served in World War II.
“And these veterans were a fixture of our lives.
“So many Americans grew up with a dad or grandfather – or grandmother – who had served in World War II.
“I was one of them.
“My favorite veteran – my dad – was a World War II pilot who flew Hellcats off the deck of the USS Intrepid in the Pacific.
“I came to know the values of the Greatest Generation through my dad – humility, patriotism, quiet service.
“These warriors who helped save the world didn’t brag about their achievements.
“They deflected praise.
“If they hailed any exploits, it was those of their comrades.
“My dad won the Distinguished Flying Cross, but that’s not what he talked about.
“He did, however, talk about Cecil Harris, one of South Dakota’s aces, whose advice for a deft maneuver saved his life during a dogfight.
“It was a move straight out of Top Gun, only decades before the movie.
“My dad always talked about how South Dakota is the only state with two aces with 20 shootdowns.
“And he talked about the other pilots in his squadron, and praised their character and their service.
“Mr. President, as I said, these veterans of the Greatest Generation have been a fixture in our lives for a long time.
“But 75 years on from the war, their numbers are dwindling quickly.
“My dad died in August of this year, at the age of 100.
“And we lose more and more of these veterans every day.
“And they will be sorely missed.
“But their legacy lives on in the generations of veterans that followed them.
“In every age and every era, men and women have stepped forward to answer the call that the Greatest Generation answered.
“And in every era, those men and women – the men and women of the United States military – have embodied the values that characterized men like my dad:
“Love of country.
“A love for freedom and for their fellow man.
“Mr. President, service in the military was once commonplace.
“But in an age when only a small percentage of the population has served or currently serves, we need to ensure that we don’t forget the vital role of our armed forces and the price our men and women in uniform pay to ensure that all of us can live in freedom.
“It’s been said ten thousand times, but it’s no less true the ten thousandth and first – we live in freedom every day because of the men and women of the United States military.
“We owe them a debt we cannot hope to repay.
“But on Veterans Day – and every day – we can remember to say thank you.
“Mr. President, I cannot close without mentioning the men and women I have met who have served and are serving – in particular, the members of the South Dakota National Guard and Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
“Right now, members of the South Dakota National Guard are deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
“The South Dakota Guard also recently served a rotation of deployments to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and to the Middle East to support coalition forces.
“Like many of their counterparts across the country, they have also been a part of the domestic coronavirus response.
“At Ellsworth, the B-1 bombers of the 28th Bomb Wing continue to demonstrate their flexible, global reach through Bomber Task Force deployments.
“The Bomber Task Force missions strengthen our continued coordination with NATO allies in Europe and assert America's commitment to security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
“From the Baltics to the South China Sea to the Middle East, the airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base continue to answer our nation's call and remain ready to respond to threats anywhere in the world at a moment's notice.
“Mr. President, as I said, we owe our men and women in uniform a debt we cannot hope to repay.
“But we can resolve to live our lives in such a way as to be worthy of their sacrifices.
“Today and every day, may we remember the gratitude we owe our military men and women, and imitate their love of freedom and their devotion to our country.”