“[L]et us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds . . .” Each year, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we are called to reflect upon the cost of our freedom, a freedom that has a profound and great price. We pause to recognize our military veterans and their selfless service to our great nation. For over 247 years, men and women from all walks of life and from each successive generation have answered this most solemn, honorable and sacred call. What is asked of us?
First, we must never forget the sacrifice made on our behalf. The aftermath of war casts a long shadow and has implications that last generations. This year we solemnly recall a number of milestones.
Nov. 11: the 102nd anniversary of the Armistice signed on Nov. 11, 1918, ending World War I (116,516 lives lost).
Jan. 22: the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Anzio (5,538 lives lost).
Feb. 3: the 10th anniversary of the Battle of Marjah (45 lives lost).
April 4 and Nov. 7: the 16th anniversary of the Battles of Fallujah (117 lives lost).
June 1: the 102nd anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood (1,062 lives lost).
July 1: the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (3,155 lives lost).
August 6: the 8th anniversary of Extortion 17 (30 lives lost).
Oct. 3: the 27th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu (19 lives lost).
Nov. 14: the 55th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang (499 lives lost).
Nov. 26: the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir (2,840 lives lost).
Dec. 8: the 79th anniversary of the Battle of Wake Island (120 lives lost).
Oct. 7: the anniversary of Operation Rhino and the 19th year of continuous combat in the Gulf War on Terror.
Since Operation Enduring Freedom commenced 19 years ago, 7,047 of our finest citizens have died in service to our country, 20 this year alone. The cost of freedom continues to be heartbreakingly great. I mention this not to cast a dark shadow, but to remind us all of the dangerous times in which we live, and of the comfort that we should take knowing that there are brave men and women who stand ready, always vigilant, always faithful to do what is necessary to defend us. Please take a moment this Veterans Month to remember the 23 million living military veterans and the 1,197,108 since 1776 who have given their last full measure of devotion to the cause of freedom.
As a ViacomCBS family, it is also appropriate this month to remember the sacrifices of our brave and selfless journalists. Since the end of World War I, 7,086 journalists have lost their lives while covering war and conflict in the darkest places throughout the world. Today, please take time to remember Paul Douglas and James Brolan, who lost their lives in service to CBS News while on assignment in Iraq on May 29, 2006, and their colleague, Kimberly Dozier, who was seriously injured. All who sacrifice for the sake of a free press, freedom and justice must never be forgotten.
We must continue to act. Our nation’s veterans need our energy and passion in addition to our gratitude and compassion. Our collective sacrifice must always be equal to theirs. Thanks to the efforts of ViacomCBS, our nation’s veterans have the support and mentoring that is so critical to a successful transition. This is especially true as we are in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. 300,000 veterans will be leaving the military this year alone, and they will need us to be there. We should all be proud of the positive and accurate portrayal of veterans on our Network. Shows like SEAL TEAM, BLUE BLOODS, NCIS and MAGNUM, P.I. are considered the gold standard by the military and veteran community. Our nation’s veterans look to us for inspiration and guidance, and we never ever let them down.
Let us be inspired to take action and make an impact right in our own backyards. In the same way that our military has brought light to the darkest places on countless battlefields throughout the world, we can do the same by getting involved to solve problems, lift spirits and better the lives of our fellow citizens. Your country needs you. Let’s draw inspiration from President Lincoln’s second inaugural address: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." We honor those haunting words with our vigilance, our purpose and our action. There is no doubt in my mind that President Lincoln, too, would be very proud of the work that we are doing here at ViacomCBS to honor our bravest citizens.
I am proud to report that veterans currently employed at ViacomCBS continue the great legacy of those who came before them. Our founders, Sumner M. Redstone and William S. Paley, would be very proud of our efforts. After all, in addition to being a brilliant business leader, Mr. Redstone was a highly decorated World War II veteran. Among his many accomplishments during his service from 1942 to 1945 as a Signal Corps and Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army, he and his team were instrumental in breaking the Japanese Code leading to VJ Day. Mr. Paley, also a World War II veteran, served as an Army officer, first with the Office of War Information and then, with the rank of colonel, as deputy chief of psychological warfare under General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Both these amazing men realized the great value that veterans would have to the future success of the company and recognized that our greatest asset is not on our balance sheet, it is our amazing employees who leverage their talent and passion every day to make a difference. It is that belief and spirit that distinguishes us from other companies serving the veteran community.
As our Chief Veteran Officer, I have had the great pleasure to work with amazing, dedicated and passionate people across the company and to discuss the issues these veterans face. There is a great sense of pride when they hear the extent of ViacomCBS’ unwavering commitment to assist our nation’s veterans and their families. Their common response is “What can I do to help?” The answer is simple. As a ViacomCBS family, let us look beyond merely thanking veterans for their service. Let us ensure that their sacrifices (and their families’ sacrifices) are never forgotten and that this great company is doing all that it can to promote their well-being. Like Mr. Redstone and Mr. Paley before us, this is our call to action.
To our ViacomCBS family and supporters, on behalf of the ViacomCBS Veterans Network, I want to wish you a very happy but solemn Veterans Day. As you know, at ViacomCBS, every day is Veterans Day and we thank you, we treasure you and we salute you! Richard M. Jones Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Ranger (Retired) Executive Vice President, General Tax Counsel & Chief Veteran Officer ViacomCBS