Good morning/afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining me
today in honoring the memory of the more than half million Americans in uniform
who have given their lives for our country. I would like to ask that you join me
for a moment of silence, in remembrance of those military men and women who made
the ultimate sacrifice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
(Speaker pauses for a moment and bows his head.)
For today's soldiers of the United States Army, our mission to defend
freedom lives on, strengthened by our eternal memory of American patriots who
gave their lives to preserve peace and democracy for future generations.
No words can adequately describe the valor of the men and women we honor
today. Thanks to America's noble soldiers, freedom endures.
They defended the future of freedom at places like Bunker Hill and
Yorktown, Gettysburg and Antietam, the trenches of France, Guadalcanal and
Normandy, the Korean peninsula, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
As we pay homage to our nation's fallen soldiers, let us reaffirm our
national commitment of keeping the freedom torch burning for tomorrow. Let us
support the American soldiers who are defending freedom as we speak. In places
like Afghanistan and Iraq, our troops are putting their lives on the line to
protect our freedom and liberate people from oppressive regimes.
That's why your attendance at this Memorial Day ceremony is important. It
sends a clear signal that America stands united behind our Armed Forces, just as
we have in the past, just as we will in the future. It says that you care enough
about this country to take a moment of remembrance.
To be sure, it's sometimes easy to forget the significance and symbolism of
Memorial Day when the All-American traditions of summer are beckoning. After
all, who can resist a day off from work, a picnic in the park, a dip in the
ocean or pool, or hamburgers, hot dogs and apple pie?
But the fact remains that Memorial Day is more than a holiday - it is a day
when our nation should express gratitude to the soldiers who give real meaning
to the phrase "All-American." Sadly, the unprovoked terrorist attack on America
on September 11, 2001, was a reminder that we must never take our bountiful
blessings or our freedom for granted.
In the years to come, I hope that even more Americans will join us for
ceremonies like this. We owe it to our friends, neighbors and loved ones who
died defending liberty and justice.
For more than 200 years, Americans have distinguished themselves on the
battlefields for freedom. In places far from American soil, men and women,
representing every race, religion and creed of this diverse American melting
pot, have willingly donned an American military uniform and defended this
country. And they all knew the risk.
But they did not let their fear of risks overcome their mission. As Adlai
Stevenson, former Illinois governor and presidential hopeful, once said, "Men
who offer their lives for their country know that patriotism is not the fear of
something; it is the love of something."
The Americans we honor today loved the ideals and values upon which this
nation was founded. I am proud to say that the soldiers of today's Army continue
to live those values, values like loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service,
honor, integrity and personal courage.
The exemplary conduct of our soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom
demonstrates their commitment to these enduring values as they restore liberty
and human dignity to those who suffered under the oppressive regime of Saddam
Hussein. Often, they put their own lives at risk to protect the lives of
innocent Iraqis and avoid civilian casualties.
This was the case on April 3, when three Army soldiers, all still in their
early to mid twenties, made a brave attempt to help a pregnant Iraqi woman.
Captain Russell Rippetoe (Rip-pa-toe), Staff Sergeant Nino Livaudais
(Liv-a-day) and Specialist Ryan Long manned a Special Operations checkpoint
in Western Iraq when a pregnant woman stepped out of a car and shouted for help.
As the soldiers approached, the car exploded, taking the lives of the pregnant
woman, the car's driver and all three soldiers in a homicide bombing attack.
These soldiers knew that they were vulnerable to terrorist attacks while
serving at the checkpoint. These men of great character and strength put aside
their own safety to help a pregnant woman - and made the ultimate sacrifice for
their selfless act of kindness. They lost their lives trying to help civilians,
but their heroism will continue to inspire soldiers now and in the future.
But for every heroic story the American public sees or hears there are
thousands more. How many Americans, for example, have heard or read about
Operation Anaconda? And if they have, how many Americans really know what
transpired those two weeks in March of 2002, in the mountains of Afghanistan?
It is a story of sacrifice and honor that should also be remembered.
Hundreds of soldiers from the Army's 10th Mountain Division, 101st Airborne
Division and Special Forces battled thousands of Al Qaeda in the Shiai Kot (Shah
Cot) Valley, a region eight to twelve thousand feet above sea level. The
soldiers braved rugged conditions and frigid weather in a region where Alexander
the Great, the British Empire and the Soviet Union suffered defeat.
It is a region where eight brave U.S. servicemen lost their lives to
protect the future of freedom. Their names were Harriman, Crose (Crows),
Anderson, Commons, Chapman, Cunningham, Roberts and Svitak (Sa-vi-tack).
They were men between the ages of 21 and 36 - men in the prime of their
lives - sons, husbands and fathers. They risked everything they cared about in
life. They gave their today for our tomorrow.
I've shared with you two heroic stories of soldiers who lost their lives in
Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us pause for a moment of silence as we remember their
names and all Americans who have died for their country.
Today, thousands of U.S. servicemen and women remain in Afghanistan, Iraq,
Southwest Asia, Bosnia and over 120 countries around the world, where the
mission to stamp out terrorism and inhumane atrocities continues, supported by
the resolve of the American people.
Your support of our soldiers is one of the most powerful weapons in the war
against terrorism. In addition to honoring the memory of those who gave their
lives for this country, I urge you to reach out to their families, to our living
veterans and to the service men and women who continue to defend our freedom.
We can do more, just as Theresa Davis has. Her personal efforts are
chronicled in Andrew Carroll's book, "War Letters."
More than 30 years after his death, she left her first-born son, Richard, a
letter at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Richard, a member of the U.S. Army's
Special Forces, was killed near the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War. She
"I will always miss you ... You're gone forever ... Every Monday night, a
group of us go to the homeless shelter for Vietnam Vets ... We try to give them
support (and) talk to them like a mother would talk to a son ... We also go to
the Vietnam Memorial whenever we can. We can tell when one of the vets is having
a hard time. Even now, so many of them feel guilty because they came home and
our sons didn't. We give them a hug, and tell them it's not their fault; we're
glad they're home. Dick, I'm sure wherever you are up there, you approve of what
I'm doing. You were such a people person; always trying to help someone ... I
know I will never hold you in my arms again. But I will forever hold you close
to my heart because you will always be my firstborn - my shining star."
Mrs. Davis had a message for all of us. Hold our fallen soldiers, sailors,
airmen and Marines close to your heart. Share an act of kindness with the men
and women who have, or who continue to, serve their country.
The words that adorn the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, where
some of our heroes are interred, also speak volumes about the bravery and valor
of the men and women who risked their lives for our nation.
"Not for fame or reward, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition or
goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it,
these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all and died."
May the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country
live forever in our memories. And may we honor them by doing everything we can
to protect freedom for future generations, whenever, and wherever, it is
God bless you and God bless America.
(END OF SPEECH)
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the Lord's prayer.