11:27 A.M. EDT
Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, thank you. Secretary Nicholson,
General Myers, members of Congress, members of the United States
military, veterans, honored guests, fellow Americans, especially those
loved ones of the fallen:
Every year on this day, we pause to remember
Americans fallen by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. I'm
honored to do that this morning on behalf of the American people.
names of the men buried there are known only to God, but their courage
and sacrifice will never be forgotten by our nation. The soldiers,
sailors, airmen, and Marines we remember today answered the call of
service in their nation's hour of need. They stood to fight for
America's highest ideals.
And when the sun came up this morning the
flag flew at half-staff in solemn gratitude and in deep respect. At
our National Cemetery, we receive the fallen in sorrow, and we take
them to an honored place to rest.
Looking across this field, we see the
scale of heroism and sacrifice. All who are buried here understood
their duty. All stood to protect America. And all carried with them
memories of a family that they hoped to keep safe by their sacrifice.
At a distance, their headstones look alike. Yet every son or daughter,
mom or dad who visits will always look first at one. General Eisenhower
put it well in 1944, when he wrote his wife, Mamie, about "the homes
that must sacrifice their best."
The families who come here have
sacrificed someone precious and irreplaceable in their lives -- and our
nation will always honor them. At our National Cemetery, we're
reminded why America has always been a reluctant warrior.
This year we
celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, a victory
for which more than 400,000 Americans gave their lives. Their courage
crossed two oceans, and it conquered tyrants. Some of you here today
fought in that war as young men, and we make this pledge to you:
America will always honor the character and the achievements of your
brave generation. (Applause.)
Today we also remember the Americans who
are still missing. We honor them. And our nation is determined to
account for all of them. (Applause.)
Another generation is fighting a
new war against an enemy that threatens the peace and stability of the
world. Across the globe, our military is standing directly between our
people and the worst dangers in the world, and Americans are grateful
to have such brave defenders. (Applause.)
The war on terror has brought
great costs. For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and
Iraq, today is a day of last letters and fresh tears. Because of the
sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, two terror regimes are gone
forever, freedom is on the march, and America is more secure.
At our National Cemetery, we take comfort from knowing that
the men and women who are serving freedom's cause understand their
purpose -- and its price.
Marine Captain Ryan Beaupre of St. Anne,
Illinois, was killed in the first hours of the war. He wrote his mom
and dad a letter that was to be opened only in the event he didn't come
home. He wrote: "Realize that I died doing something that I truly
love, and for a purpose greater than myself."
Army Sergeant Michael
Evans of Marrero, Louisiana, felt the same way. He was killed on
January 28th while on patrol in Western Baghdad. In his own farewell
letter to his family, the 22-year-old reminded those he left behind to
stay strong. He said: "My death will mean nothing if you stop now. I
know it will be hard, but I gave my life so you could live. Not just
live, but live free." (Applause.)
For some of our young heroes, courage
and service was a family tradition. Lance Corporal Darrell Schumann of
Hampton, Virginia, was a machine gunner for the Marines, but his
parents were Air Force. He liked to say, "Air Force by birth, Marine by
choice, and American by the grace of God." (Applause.) Corporal
Schumann was among the first to enter the battle against insurgents in
Fallujah, and he was proud of what he -- what we are achieving. He
later died in a helicopter crash. In his last letter from Iraq, he
wrote, "I do wish America could see how awesome a job we're doing."
These are the men and women who wear our uniform. These are the men and
women who defend our freedom. And these are the men and women who are
buried here. As we look across these acres, we begin to tally the cost
of our freedom, and we count it a privilege to be citizens of the
country served by so many brave men and women. (Applause.)
And we must
honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives,
by defeating the terrorists, advancing the cause of liberty, and
building a safer world. (Applause.)
A day will come when there will be
no one left who knew the men and women buried here. Yet Americans will
still come to visit, to pay tribute to the many who gave their lives
for freedom, who liberated the oppressed, and who left the world a
safer and better place.
Today we pray that they have found peace with
their Creator, and we resolve that their sacrifice will always be
remembered by a grateful nation. May God continue to bless America.
END 11:36 A.M. EDT