Sumner G. Whittier, who headed the VA for many years, passed away on January 8, 2010 at the age of 98. He is credited with bring to the VA its motto: To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and has orphan, What follows is an article originally published in the VA's magazine, Vanguard. Whittier was a 1936 Boston University graduate, The Sumner G. Whittier School in Everett is named after him, and was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to head the VA in 1957, a position he held until 1964.
It Was First Written
When on March 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office for the second time, the nation was in the last throes of the Civil War. In the conclusion of his second inaugural address, Lincoln said: 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 a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
It Was Then Memorialized
That paragraph sums up the philosophy that has guided Veterans Affairs, as well as its functional and organizational forerunners in dealing with veterans, especially those disabled.
A part of that address adorns metal plaques on either side of the Vermont Avenue doors to VA Central Office in Washington, D.C.
To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and has orphan, became the motto of VA in May, 1959, when the plaques were first put up.
So how was VA matched with Lincoln s immortal words? By the direction of an Administrator of the Veterans Administration in the closing years of the Eisenhower Administration, Sumner G. Whittier.
The following was recorded in the 1967 edition of a VA medical history printed for the use of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, which was entitled, To care for him who shall have borne the battle:
He worked no employee longer or harder than himself to make his personal credo the mission of the agency. What was that credo? Simply the words of Abraham Lincoln, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan. To indicate the mission of his agency s employees, Mr. Whittier had plaques installed on either side of the main entrance.
Mr. Whittier, who served as Administrator from December 1957 to January 1961, was a veteran of World War II. He served in the Navy for three years and was discharged as a lieutenant. He had held a number of public service positions from the age of 27, finally serving as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts from 1953 to 1956. He joined the Veterans Administration as Director of Insurance in January 1957, and in December of that year was appointed Administrator.
--- Regards, Walt Schmidt