Although World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, the armistice, or temporary cessation of fighting, that occurred seven months earlier is often viewed as the end of “the war to end all wars.” The armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Thus, Veterans Day occurs every year on November 11 as a tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–who served their country honorably.
As of 2018, 18.2 million living veterans served during at least one war. With such a wide array of experiences to draw from, veterans are able to provide audiences with incredible stories of resilience and courage. This Veterans Day, as we honor and commemorate those who have honorably served during any war, consider bringing military speakers to your events to share inspiring firsthand accounts and powerful messages on leadership, perseverance, and service.
Check out these top Veterans Day speakers and some of their most inspiring quotes for your event this year.
First Female F-14 Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Navy, Team-Building, Leadership & Strategy Expert
Carey Lohrenz was the first female F-14 Tomcat pilot, a pioneer in military aviation. Having flown missions worldwide as a combat, mission-ready United States Navy pilot, Lohrenz is used to working in fast moving, dynamic environments where inconsistent execution can generate catastrophic results.
Her book “Fearless Leadership: High-Performance Lessons from the Flight Deck” alludes to her lessons learned while serving, including the importance of leadership, finding a balance in life, and safety. As Lohernez summarizes, “knowing your value, speaking up, and not flying under the radar–this is what fearless leadership is about.”
Military Veteran, Purple Heart & Bronze Star Recipient, NY Times Bestselling Author of “Rise,”, Wide Receiver & NFL Draftee
Daniel Rodriguez was deployed after joining the military after his high school graduation, where he ended up surviving one of the most violent clashes in the Afghanistan war. Having made a promise to one of his close friends who died in Afghanistan, Ptc. Kevin Thompson, he decided he would try out football, despite the odds being stacked against him.
Rodriguez delivers an inspiring message of determination and grit as a veteran and beyond. He encourages people to never give up: “When you’re as small as I am, people don’t expect you to be much of an athlete. You either wilt under the weight of low expectations, or you rise above them.”
Actor, Best-Selling Author, Motivational Speaker, Advocate & Wounded U.S. Army Veteran
During Martinez’ deployment to Iraq in 2003, he suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34% of his body after his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. He has undergone over 30 different surgeries since then, but has turned his experience into inspiration for getting through anything life throws at you.
Martinez shares his message of grit and determination all over the country: “I’ve learned in my life that it’s important to be able to step outside of your comfort zone and be challenged with something you’re not familiar with or accustomed to. That challenge will allow you to see what you can do.”
Former U.S. Air Force Captain, Fighter Pilot Who Survived After Crashing Behind Enemy Lines & Author of “Return with Honor”
Captain O’Grady spent 12 years in the Air Force, including survival after crashing in hostile territory while helping to enforce the NATO no-fly zone. His book, Return with Honor, recounts his story of courage.
His message inspires his audiences to tap into our strength and power: “We don’t know what we’re capable of until we have to survive. Each of us is stronger than we know – the key is learning to tap that power at will.”
The US Army’s First Openly Trans Soldier
Ortega is an advocate, educator, and one of the top military speakers on topics such as LGBTQ equity, indigenous rights, disabled veterans’ rights, MMIW, two-spirit education, land sovereignty, and colonial/tribal law relationship.
As the first openly trans soldier, Ortega is a pillar for growth for LGBTQ+ military members and veterans. “I swore to protect and help my countrymen. Sometimes helping your country doesn’t mean fighting a war; it means speaking up and out.”
Former NFL Football Player, Wounded Vietnam Veteran & Purple Heart Recipient
Bleier’s story of triumphs both on the football field and the battlefield show an incredible display of strength, power, and will. He was drafted as a late round pick in the NFL but before the season ended that year, he was drafted by the United States Army to fight in the Vietnam War. He received considerable wounds in combat, but over two years, he fought obstacles and made his way back onto the Pittsburgh Steelers, this time as a starting running back.
Bleier is well-known for overcoming challenges in all areas of his life. He believes both the military and NFL trained him to develop the courage it took to accomplish all he did: “The lessons I learned in Vietnam and in the NFL reinforced one another: teamwork, sacrifice, responsibility, accountability, and leadership.”
First Lieutenant (Retired) & Three-Time Paratriathlon World Champion
Melissa Stockwell was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in 2002 and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Three weeks after deployment, a roadside bomb left her without a leg. Despite this incredible loss, she persevered and in 2008, she became the first Iraqi War veteran to qualify for the Paralympics, competing in swimming and the paratriathlon, now a three-time world champion. Stockwell is also one of the most dynamic military speakers out there.
Through Stockwell’s triumphs, she also provides another perspective on the importance of including the family of veterans in the conversation: “Those soldiers that go over to protect our freedom, they sacrifice so much to go over, but it’s also the loved ones back home. I mean you tell someone ‘thank you for your service’ but it’s a family affair. You have the caregivers back home, the spouses, the children – it’s an all-encompassing sacrifice.”
For their incredible efforts and sacrifices for the United States, military speakers can open an exhilarating and inspiring dialogue for your audience this Veterans Day. Whether through their own stories of persevering through challenges, their advocacy work, or through tips on how to develop the utmost grit and determination in yourself, these veteran speakers will bring unique value to any event.