Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games! I'm honored to be here. Let me acknowledge our special guests:
This is the third time that I'm addressing this Sponsors' Dinner, and the usual sequence is for me to acknowledge our distinguished guests, which I have just done, and then in about three to five minutes thank all our sponsors, citing a meaty quotation from some long-departed and often unrecalled philosopher.
This year, let me take a couple of more minutes to think out loud with you about what these Wheelchair Games mean. You are all heavily invested in them. And while we call them "games," they are really rehabilitation events—I think you all know that. These activities get these severely and permanently injured Veterans to push their personal envelopes of physical activity in ways other activities do not. In the process, they are invigorated, energized, made more confident, more engaged in year-round physical fitness, and their mental health and overall physical well-being are improved. They live healthier lives and longer ones as well.
To do this one week, these Veterans have to work year-round to maintain some level of conditioning. The number of Veterans in need of care and benefits is increasing, and the complexity of injuries and illnesses has increased as well.
Battlefield medicine has greatly improved, and survival rates are incredible. So the requirements for VA-provided care and benefits are large and growing. Whenever the last combatant returns from Afghanistan, we expect VA's requirements will continue to grow for another decade or more, which brings me to the point of this evening's remarks.
Your investments are incredibly generous and supremely important. We could not do this without the support of everyone in this room. Today, less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform. These athletes are, simply, some of the folks who make us the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In his 1950 acceptance speech, Nobel laureate and great writer William Faulkner of the Southern literary tradition said: "I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."
This week, you will see evidence of all three—compassion, sacrifice, endurance. Veterans who have already sacrificed so much for this country get to demonstrate that the warrior spirit did not dim one iota when they suffered their injuries.
Thank you all for giving these very special men and women this opportunity to prevail. We know there are lots of causes worthy of your support—but your generosity in supporting these Wheelchair Games will ensure that every single participant goes home a winner and with the fire to train for next year's competition.
God bless our Veterans, and may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.