(CNSNews.com) - House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), speaking Wednesday at a Veterans Day event in Racine, said the best way to honor those who fought and died for their country is to teach children what those veterans were fighting to save.
"Our veterans fought to preserve our heritage. But it’s up to us to pass on that heritage to the next generation," Ryan said.
Ryan told the crowd that he and his wife took their three children to see Mount Rushmore last summer: "We like to bring them to historical sites, because we want them to learn our history. We want to them to know the big names: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln. We want them to know the stories behind them.
"I’ve always believed you can’t truly love this country if you don’t know our history; if you don’t understand the sacrifices people made—if you don’t know what it took to make us free."
Ryan hailed the "ordinary people" who "heard history calling," served their country, and -- along with the families they left behind -- are "the very definition of public service."
Ryan said it's important to thank veterans, recognize their sacrifice, salute their patriotism -- and maybe even contribute to groups that bring veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington.
"But we also have to bring our children to these memorials," he said. We have to tell them the stories of our friends and family who served. We have to talk about why these sacrifices were important, and not just on special occasions.
"We have to do it all the time -- to talk about American history at the dinner table, to spend more vacations going to historical sites, to teach our children, and ourselves what it means to be an American. That’s the best way we can honor our veterans.
"So I want to encourage you to come to Washington. Bring your children to the memorials. Have them find a relative’s name on the Vietnam wall. Go see the original Declaration of Independence. Go visit the Smithsonian. Walk under the big arches of the World War II memorial. That’s the only way they can learn you don’t need a big name to make a big difference -- to make a real contribution.
"That’s the genius of America. And that’s what we celebrate today."