Badger Stadium at Yosemite High School was the site of this year’s Patriot Day, held to honor those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and for people to show their appreciation and gratitude for the dedicated service of all veterans, active duty military, and emergency services personnel.
Michael V. Vane, retired U.S. Army Three-Star General, was the keynote speaker at the event sponsored by Sierra Tel.
In his presentation, Vane said he had the opportunity to work specifically with the Department of Homeland Security and grew to respect and appreciate the expertise and sacrifices of community first responders, as well as veterans and active and reserve military in all services.
“Thank you all for all your sacrifices and the service you provide each and every day helping to protect our way of life,” Vane said. “I include family members as well as they too endure sacrifices on a daily basis.”
Vane said 9/11 helped unify the country 15 years ago.
“9/11 galvanized and inspired us, as we recounted stories of sacrifice of our first responders and out military,” Vane said. “Take a minute on this 15th anniversary and say hello to your neighbor, go to a park, introduce yourself to a stranger, thank a police officer, a fireman, a veteran or currently serving military - thank them for their service.”
Vane stressed the importance of Americans to vote as well.
“An additional sacred responsibility of every citizen is to vote - whether you feel there are enough choices, whether you care about any or all the positions or initiatives, it is the most solemn duty of every citizen to vote ... When you don’t vote, you convey the notion that you don’t matter. And as we know, all citizens matter.”
Vane, 63, retired in 2011 after 36 years of active duty service. In his last assignments he served as the Commanding General, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he commanded the worldwide deployment of the Patriot Air and Missile Defense system to Korea, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
In addition to Vane’s speech, the event included the presentation of colors by the YHS Cadet Corps, the singing of the “National Anthem” and “United We Stand” by the YHS Chamber Singers under the direction of Francisco Marquez, the YHS Advanced Percussion Ensemble, Invocation and Benediction by Dr. Richard Lamontagne, a member of the Griswold Mountain Detachment of Marine Corps League No. 1121, a 21 Rifle Salute by members of the same Marine Corps League, and “Taps” played by YHS student Joe Wallo.
Mountain Area veterans, active duty military and emergency personnel were presented with a label pin that read “Remember September 11th.”
Special keynote speaker, Michael V. Vane - Patriot Day, Oakhurst
15th anniversary of 9/11, given Sept. 12, 2016
Thank you for inviting me to be the keynote speaker today. I am truly honored. Thanks to the organizers and sponsors of today’s event - Sierra Tel, The Chamber Of Commerce, Yosemite High School, and of course, all of you students and citizens supporting the Oakhurst Community on this 15th anniversary of 9/11.
Today, I would like to talk about a few things as we remember the catastrophic events of 9/11 striking the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville in our country, killing more people than at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Most importantly is to honor those who gave their lives, and to thank our first responders, our veterans, our active duty, national guard, and reserve military forces, and their families who sacrifice and serve every day. There is a prevalent threat to our national security not only in the form of violent terrorist extremism and crime, but also disturbing trends within our own population. To counter these threats, there are things, I feel, we must do as citizens to focus on in order to make our country stronger. It is every citizens duty to vote. And we need to find ways to connect with each other in a positive manner.
I had the privilege of serving our country in uniform for 36 years, retiring as a lieutenant general in the U.S. Army. Over the duration of my career, I had the opportunity to lead and manage a variety of organizations and work alongside incredible American civilians, soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines in the continental United States as well as overseas in places like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Honduras, Germany and others. Many of these assignments were of an operational nature, commanding our nation’s patriot air and missile defense force to combat tactical ballistic missile threats. Additionally, I led the development of the future U.S. Army - how big should it be, how many weapon systems should we buy, how many helicopters, tanks, trucks, and how and where should we invest in research and development. Included in this future’s responsibility was an examination of future threats, and how we should fight them conceptually, and how to develop and train our leaders of the future.
I’ve had the opportunity to work specifically with homeland security and many other allied nations in developing our own capabilities and have grown to understand, respect, and appreciate the expertise and sacrifices of first responders - emergency medical technicians, law enforcement, fire personnel, the first citizens on the scene, as well as veterans, active and reserve military in all services. Thank you all for your sacrifices and the service you provide each and every day helping to protect our way of life. I include family members as well as they too endure sacrifice on a daily basis. Your service includes being ready and getting called out on short notice to emergencies locally, regionally, and worldwide. Thank you.
For whatever reason drives you to serve - to protect our rights as American citizens, for our loved ones in our communities, for the chance at adventure, or for our “buddies” within our organizations. For duty, honor, country; to free others from oppression, to maintain our freedoms, to preserve and protect.
These reasons to serve, these ideals, in many ways are represented by our flag and the Star Spangled Banner. We honor it as so many have died for those ideals and those reasons to serve that the flag may represent. That flag was carried by the buffalo soldier, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King as well as many others. A great number of military, police and fire fighters gave their lives for its ideals. While that right to disrespect the flag is acknowledged, let us not confuse it with doing the right thing. There are honorable ways to get our issues highlighted without disrespecting the very ideals our country strives to uphold. There are some who are jealous of our founding principles and our democratic freedoms – some inside our borders and some external to our country. Threats such as those who cowardly attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon exist today in the form of ISIS or ISIL and other supporting organizations. These threats are real and conflict with our way of life and require that we stand strong to counter them in our communities and abroad.
Better to try and combat them in some other person’s country than to have to in our own backyards. 9/11 was one of the first large scale attacks within our borders in a great many years, and we must not forget that such enemies want to do us harm today and no doubt in the future. The challenge in defeating these extremists lies not so much on the battlefield, rather political and social solutions that address the waves of disaffected young men whose despair of their conditions lead them to this extreme form of Islam.
I have been fortunate to serve as a leader in our army, perhaps one of the greatest armies in our nation’s history, an army that has risen, along with our joint services, to the needs of our nation on every occasion, vanquishing our foes and preserving the liberties of our Constitution. Those capabilities necessary for not only this strong army, strong military, but a strong police force, strong law enforcement team, strong firefighting force and emergency medical technicians, and a good many other professions, require the very best of our youth of our country. In fact, national survival requires the very best of our citizens young and old. Today, the ability of our population to deliver the needed capabilities in the youth of our country is threatened by serious societal and health factors.
According to the department of defense and an organization called Mission Readiness, a non-profit national organization I am a member of, a full 71% of all 17-24 year olds nationwide are ineligible to serve in the armed forces. Yes, nearly three quarters of young American adults could walk into a recruiting station today and be turned away because they cannot meet minimum screening requirements of military service. The primary reasons? They are too poorly educated, are physically unfit, or have a criminal record. Or some combination of all three.
Let’s think on that for a moment.
First, nationwide, more than one in five high school students does not graduate on time. And of those who do, another one in five cannot score high enough on the defense department’s entrance exam to qualify.
Secondly, the military needs people who qualify on the moral and ethical dimension, especially when we put so much trust and responsibility on the shoulders of soldiers, sailors, airman, marines and coast guard men and women around the globe. We put loaded weapons into their hands after sufficient training, with a set of rules of engagement and they become the face of America. It’s disheartening to know that one in 10 young Americans are barred from service because of a felony or serious misdemeanor.
Third, obesity is taking its toll on society and the armed forces. More than 30% of young Americans do not qualify for service because they are overweight. Many cannot run the length of a football field nor pull their weight up on a pull up bar. Here in California, more than one-third of children and adolescents are overweight and obese. Very sad. The rise in obesity and decline in physical activity has a transcendent, multi-generational effect.
Many of these same desired military capabilities are needed in our first responders.
No matter your age, sex, ethnicity, religious preference, there is a compelling need for Americans to be fit. Physically, morally and spiritually, and technically fit. One of the key strengths of our nation has always been its people. Getting at least six to eight hours of sleep, eating nutritional food at home and school, getting 30 minutes of sustained physical activity three to five times a week are critical to achieving a level of physical fitness necessary for local and national security. We must educate ourselves and our youth on the treatment of our bodies more like a machine and deliver the right combination of air and fuel it needs, not what it might want. Sweets, sodas, alcohol, cigarettes are not what our bodies need.
Moral and spiritual fitness concerns itself with doing the right thing even when no one else is around, in my mind. We learn what the right thing to do is from our environment at home, at our church, at our school, at our work, from various ethical and religious publications from an early age. We generally know our laws, we generally know how to properly respect each other, each others’ cultures, religions, privacy, property, and knowledge is the important first step. But then doing that right thing, respecting the law, respecting one another and their opinions is the critical second part of successfully living and developing the community.
Then there is technical and mental proficiency or fitness. Our country needs a citizenry who has a passionate sense of purpose and can execute the expertise necessary to carry out that vocation. Whether it is bussing tables, repairing vehicles, driving trucks, farming, being a physician, lawyer, soldier, policeman, whatever your passion is. Find out what you enjoy doing in life that has purpose, and pursue it vigorously. Gain a level of expertise that provides you a competitive advantage. Training, practice, and constantly striving to educate yourself throughout your life is needed to have the right attitude to be successful in life, set the example for our young ones who are watching, and retain the ability to overcome our competitors and enemies.
We live in the greatest country on Earth, perhaps the greatest in its history. I truly believe that. Our form of government, one that represents the consent of its population, and the way of life prescribed by our Constitution, is still the ideal example for not only ourselves but the rest of the known world. An additional sacred responsibility of every citizen is to vote. Whether you feel there are enough choices, whether you care about any or all the positions or initiatives, it is the most solemn duty of every citizen to vote. If you don’t like the ones on the list, offer your own! Write it in! It is one of the underlying principles that induced our countrymen to revolt against the English so many years ago. To be governed by the consent of the people. When you don’t vote, you convey the notion that you don’t matter. And as we know, all citizens matter.
9/11 helped unify our country 15 years ago. The current political and social climate exacerbated by the national media is seemingly pulling us apart. 9/11 galvanized and inspired us, as we recounted stories of sacrifice of our first responders and our military. Some would draw from media that we are a country divided and uninspired. Don’t encourage that notion! Take a minute on this 15th anniversary and say hello to your neighbor, go to a park, introduce yourself to a stranger, thank a police officer, a fireman, a veteran or currently serving military. Thank them for their service.
We have an obligation to ourselves and future generations to re-ingrain these disciplines in order to continue to create these opportunities and rights. I am confident we can do this together. Let us not forget 9/11, let us always honor those who gave their lives and appreciate the sacrifices of our first responders, military, police, and fire fighters, as there are threats to our way of life, and they lead the charge in protecting our freedoms. Know that by being fit, physically, spiritually, morally, and mentally, technically and setting that example, we can do our part to ensure the national security of our country and our way of life.
Get out and vote. Love your neighbor. Get fit!