American Forces Press Service
SAN FERNANDO, Calif., Nov. 11, 2010 - On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the annual Veteran's Day Parade here stepped off today, reminiscent of when it began -- at the moment the guns fell silent on the Western Front ending World War I in 1918.
The San Fernando Valley celebrated its veterans with bands, flyovers and speeches. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen – a Los Angeles native – served as the parade's grand marshal.
Mullen thanked the people of the Valley for the honor to him and his wife, Deborah. "We have deep Valley roots," Mullen said. "We grew up here, we went to high school here, just down the road."
Mullen recalled cruising down Laurel Canyon Boulevard – the route of the parade – in his father's Mercury.
"It is an honor to be with you to reflect on America's greatest treasure – the veterans of our armed forces," he said. "From Saratoga to Saigon, from Corregidor to Kuwait, from Korea to Kandahar and a thousand other places, our men and women in uniform have served and sacrificed in a way that has been a hallmark of our nation."
Each American should recognize veterans' service and their sacrifices, Mullen said. He thanked the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from every generation for their commitment to America and freedom around the world.
"As we celebrate the veterans who returned safely, we also know that for many, the war follows them home," Mullen said. "They have returned forever changed by what they have experienced. So today we honor and embrace every warrior from every war with both visible and invisible battle wounds."
It also is appropriate that America mourn and remember those servicemembers who did not come home. "We lift them and their families up in our hearts and pledge to never forget their sacrifices," he said.
Before coming to the parade, Mullen joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to launch a service project at the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System campus. Mullen spoke to the volunteers who gathered to rebuild a garden accessible to the disabled on the VA campus.
"This happens ... when we have two wars and we've got tens of thousands of veterans returning home," Mullen said. "This is the best military I've ever been associated with in the more than 40 years I've been privileged to wear the uniform. They are typically 18 to 24 years old ... and they have served and served without question and they've made such a difference."
As the veterans return home and transition back to civilian life, they will bring their leadership abilities, knowledge, and life experiences back with them, the chairman said. "They have made such a difference for our country, we need to make sure we make it possible for them to continue to make that difference," he said.
The chairman wants Americans to connect with their military, and there is a danger with fewer people having exposure to the services that the military could be isolated from the people it serves.
"Those of us in the military need to continue to work hard to communicate the message to continue to support and represent those who serve now and once served," he said during a short press availability here. "We must connect the Pentagon and the VA with communities throughout the country. And when I say communities I mean the people and the leaders throughout the country who understand the challenge and the great upside potential for investing in these young people who served."
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Chairman Works to Bridge Military-Civilian Gap