McKinley leads Veterans Day celebration in Knoxville

  • Published
  • By Army Sgt 1st Class Jon Soucy
  • National Guard Bureau
Members of the National Guard have made tremendous sacrifices since 2001 and the start of the Global War on Terrorism, but that sense of self-sacrifice and determination is nothing new to the almost 374-year-old organization, the head of the National Guard said at an annual Veterans Day celebration in Knoxville, Tenn., on Nov. 11.

"I hope for those of you who didn't know much about the National Guard before, that you now know where our character and our DNA came from," said Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, while attending the East Tennessee Military Affairs Council's 28th annual Veterans Day ceremony.

"From civilians, almost four centuries ago, who just like here in Knoxville, would lay down their plowshares and pick up a rifle to protect their families, number one, their communities, number two, the colonies as they were formed and this great nation as it sprang to life."

McKinley said the Guard has done "miraculous work" over the past nine years, but that has also come with a price that should not be forgotten.

"If you're a Gold Star mother or father, you've lost a son or daughter in the conflicts (in Iraq and Afghanistan)," he said. "I don't think anyone can repay that sacrifice to a mother or a father to lose a son or daughter in the wars that protect our freedom."

As operations draw down in Iraq and continue in Afghanistan, the work being done by deployed Guard Soldiers and Airmen will not be any less important, said McKinley, adding that work and sense of duty is often a source of inspiration for him.

The outpouring of support shown by those in attendance at the Knoxville ceremony also encouraged him.

"You inspire me, you motivate me and I go home to Washington tonight with a renewed sense of purpose," he said. "Thank you for that burst of energy."

McKinley, who was the guest of honor at the ceremony and a reviewing official for the city's parade, said Veteran's Day is a time to remember the sacrifices of all veterans.

"And for all the military men and women here in uniform today and who have served prior, I thank you," he said.