We are American Veterans

PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- If you'd have asked me just a few years ago what a veteran looked like, I'd have said a veteran has a long white beard, wears a leather jacket with war patches on it, speaks with a gruff voice, and has firm hands and a surly demeanor.

He is someone who has seen the destruction of war, and has lived to tell his tale. He is proud, he is strong, and he is someone far reaching, someone I don't know. Someone ... not me.

I am not old, nor do I have grey hair. I have hope in the future, and I know where I stand. I serve my country with pride. I am an American, I am an Airman, and now, I am a Veteran.

Deployed to Afghanistan as a member of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, I have the responsibility of continuing a commitment made long before my time; one that will continue to stand strong far after we leave. My team of American Veterans helps to eradicate the extremism that threatens the future of our nations, and others around the world.

Progress is both visible and poignant everywhere we visit. The Afghans are fighting for their freedom from terror and oppression. They are dedicated to fighting for their voice, just as Americans were more than 200 years ago. They are learning to stand on their own, proudly as Afghans, to unite against a common enemy, and dedicate their lives for a promise of freedom.

Now, they know they will soon stand proud, as Afghans. Together, we are fighting for peace.

President Obama reminds us of why we fight -- in hopes of a day when we no longer need to. And that is why we gather at these gatherings, with solemn remembrance and grateful recognition of those before us -- to recommit ourselves to the hard work of peace.

President Kennedy said, "In a world tormented by tension and the possibilities of conflict, we meet in a quiet commemoration of a historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible."

In this time of war, we gather here mindful that the generation serving today already deserves a place alongside previous generations for the courage they have shown and the sacrifices that they have made.

I am not proud of myself, alone, but honored to serve next to the Veterans of wars fought before me ... And for my brothers and sisters who will continue to fight far into the future. Today is a day to recognize those before and after myself and my team. I am honored to share this day with you, honored to be an Airman, and honored to serve you, as an American Veteran.