Ministry of defence Republic of Serbia

Solemn academy to mark Veterans Day

A solemn academy on the occasion of December 4 - Veterans Day, was held tonight at the Guard House in Topčider. The event was attended by the President’s designee, Suzana Paunović, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Nebojša Stefanović, PhD, and Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff, General Milan Mojsilović.  At the beginning of his address, Minister Stefanović thanked the families of national heroes Major Milan Tepić, Private Borko Nikitović and Private Stojadin Mirković who died heroically in action in Croatia in 1991, for attending this event on a very important day when we hold our heads high.

- We mark this day in memory of 1912, when almost 400,000 Serbian soldiers were awarded status, i.e. a title of an "old warrior", in modern terms that would be what we call a veteran today. This title first emerged at a time when Serbia was waging wars, not only for its freedom, but I would also say for its survival - Minister Stefanović pointed out.

The Minister of Defence referred to a segment from a letter sent that year by a Serbian officer to his sister from a battlefield near Bitola, which was published in press at the time.  

- Although the letter dates back to 1912, I think it is relatable to every soldier, to every period and to every situation when our country defended its freedom. In his letter, he describes how they slept near Prilep for three days in the snow without blankets or a fire at a temperature of -12 degrees, had nothing to eat but a piece of bread in three days, and then waded in chest deep water near Bitola for two days, and then went into battle, soaking wet. He says: "You can't understand our soldier. He is brave as a lion, he is as enduring as steel. How can we, officers, be cowards when all our soldiers are heroes? You should have seen them near Bitola, after heavy artillery and infantry fire, they waded through the neck-deep river flowing at 56 metres per second, going forward holding hands, letting go of their friend who fell after getting hit by an enemy bullet and getting hold of the next one unable to use his strong and safe rifle in the water and not thinking about going back. They are strong, and only their commander knows how strong they are. Whoever has such an army will beat the whole world," Minister Stefanović emphasized.  According to him, that letter is an extremely accurate description of what the Serbian soldier is prepared to do fighting for his country.

- Our soldier was like that throughout history, in the wars that followed, and he remains such to this day. Brave as a lion, as enduring as steel, a fearless fighter for Serbia. That is why Serbia must not forget its veterans, we must not forget the old warriors who fought for a free homeland throughout history. It must keep alive the memory of them so that our children know what kind of heroes created, defended, built and safeguarded our country. Serbia must honour and take care of those heroes, our veterans, who are still with us today. You need to know that we are proud that you are with us, that we can say thank you for everything you have done and we want to show you how much we respect you for having defended our homeland in fateful moments for the whole country - said Minister Stefanović.
According to him, along with the strengthening of the Ministry of Defence and the Serbian Armed Forces, we will also increase our capability for improving the position of our veterans so that we can build a better future for our children together and with dignity.

- Let us never go to war, but let us never forget what the people, who fought in the war, have done for all of us. Long live Serbia! - said Minister Stefanović.
The President’s designee, Suzana Paunović, extended her congratulations on Veterans Day, emphasizing that, in its long and rich history, Serbia has been through various periods, changed, strengthened and got richer.

- The army got stronger and matured along with the country, and today we can proudly say that it is a true reflection of how tradition can fit into modern life without losing its essence. And the essence is love for the fatherland, pride in who we are and where we come from and disobedience that has always been characteristic of our people - Paunović pointed out.

We have never given up our freedom, she added, and we have won our victory, peace and joy with great difficulty and great losses.

- Many people who thought of our people as small and helpless realized they were wrong and wanted this heroic, Serbian people, full of honour and pride, to be their ally. On this day, we mark one of the greatest military holidays – the day of veterans, warriors, rebels, heroes, the day of those who never consented to escape, defeat, surrender. The day of heroes, who looked death in the eye countless times and many unfortunately perished in the process, but even then with a smile on their faces and zeal in their eyes - Paunović said.

According to her, thanks to them and others like them, towards the end of the First World War the Cologne newspapers wrote that few soldiers fought like the Serbian soldier did - he died where he was ordered not to give up.

- And every word in that newspaper was true - they never gave up, ready to sacrifice their lives for the country to which they swore allegiance. The celebration of Veterans Day and the solemn academy we organized is just a small contribution to the preservation of the memory of our national heroes and their magnificent struggle for freedom. The freedom they won encouraged today's generations to follow in their footsteps, to preserve and create the state and institutions that would preserve those values, but above all, to recognize, nurture and hold our veterans’ values ​​- Suzana Paunović emphasized.

According to her, even today, after more than a century, we have the same task - to keep our ancestors’ vows and preserve and develop the lasting values ​​on which our state was created and survived.  - We, the descendants of the famous Karađorđe and Miloš, intellectuals like Pupin, Tesla, field marshals such as Mišić, Putnik, Bojović. A country that has given birth to heroes such as Tepić, Mirković, Leovac and many others, we have many reasons to be guided by the saying "he who dares, wins" and to find ways to always overcome all obstacles on the path to prosperity of our armed forces and our state - said Suzana Paunović.

- I am sure that the desire for a better tomorrow that we carry in our genes will never subside, because Serbia and its people know nothing else but to always stand proud and be defiant. On behalf of the President of the Republic and the Supreme Commander of the Serbian Armed Forces, I wish you a happy Veterans Day - said Suzana Paunović.

On the occasion of Veterans Day, Minister Stefanović presented awards for successful cooperation, contribution to the implementation of projects and other activities undertaken by the Ministry of Defence and the Serbian Armed Forces. Minister Stefanović presented MoD plaques to the Head of the Port Authority Belgrade Milan Nikolić and Secretary of the Secretariat for Defence, Emergency Situations, Communications and Coordination of Public Relations Darko Glavaš for the assistance provided during the exhibition of the restored "Sava" river monitor.
The solemn academy on the occasion of Veterans Day also included stage and vocal performances which paid homage to the heroes of Serbian history and those who paid with their lives for the freedom of our people.
mp4 (147,38 MB)
The solemn academy
mp4 (398,48 MB)
Minister Stefanovic's address
mp4 (375,45 MB)
President's designee Suzana Paunovic's address