On the eve of Veterans Day, American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill used an address at the Catholic University of America to sing the praises of "ordinary people accomplishing things."
Speaking before more than 70 people – including Legionnaires and several ROTC students from the Washington, D.C. university – Hill cited examples like Veterans of Valor founder Klay South, titans of industry such as AOL's James Kinsey and Federal Express CEO Frederick Smith, and other veterans and servicemembers who have stepped up when their comrades and country needed them.
"Young and old, rich and poor, black and white and nearly every category in between, they are men and women who served or still serve America," Hill said. "Some have endured great hardships, separation from family and drastically altered lifestyles. Some have experienced the horrors of war. All sacrificed something so that we could enjoy the freedoms we have today."
Hill said there is a common theme among veterans achieving great things either during or following their service.
"It would be a stretch to believe that these extraordinary accomplishments are mere coincidence and not due to the discipline, motivational skills, calmness under pressure and other leadership traits that are instilled in every man and woman that has served in the greatest military force on the planet." Hill said.
Hill talked about Legion programs like Operation Comfort Warriors, which has raised more than $215,000 to purchase comfort items for servicemembers recovering in military hospitals. He also touched on the organization's efforts in lobbying for veterans, including its instrumental role in gaining passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
But the focus of his speech was praising America's veterans.
"We can never sufficiently thank our veterans," he said. "But we can tell them that we appreciate their sacrifice. They are, after all, ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things."