Memorial Day 2006 Speech
September 18, 2006
(OPENING: SPEAKER ACKNOWLEDGE/ ADDRESSES THE SPECIFIC AUDIENCE)
"Any nation that does not honor its hero's will not long endure." - Abraham Lincoln
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. It is more than just another "day off;" it is a time to honor those who died in service to our nation, from the Revolutionary War to the present. I am pleased to take this opportunity to honor the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have proudly served our nation and have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free. For over 230 years - from the Revolution to the Global War on Terrorism - our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, have always been willing to fight, and in many cases die, for our freedom and the way of life we enjoy, but, unfortunately, many of us take for granted.
Surprisingly, many citizens of this great country, the United States of America, do not realize why we observe this national holiday. According to a Gallup poll, only 28% of Americans know the true meaning of Memorial Day. Many continue to confuse Memorial Day with another important Federal day of remembrance, Veterans Day. Unlike Veterans Day, which is an opportunity to publicly commemorate the contributions of all veterans, Memorial Day is a sacred day of remembrance for all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while in service to our country. As one of our Nation's veteran service organizations states, "America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens be reminded of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. By honoring the nation's war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice."
Serving in the Armed Forces of the United States has always been a noble calling. Since the shots at Lexington and Concord were fired and our Revolutionary War began, the American Soldier has been the defender of liberty and democracy. Since their humble beginnings in 1776, the American Soldier has fought and died on battlefields here and abroad to defend our rights and freedoms.
On the bloody battlefields of the Civil War, the American Soldier fought to save the Union and promote human dignity. From the trenches of Europe during the "great war," the American Soldier fought to preserve democracy in a war we hoped would end all wars. A generation later, the American Soldier was again sent by our country to end the spread of worldwide tyranny. World War II saw our Soldiers fight and die on the battlefields of Europe and Asia to successfully destroy the tyrants and preserve liberty for ourselves and our allies. During the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the American Soldiers once again spilled their blood and died to end the threat of communism and to preserve freedom. As the new century dawned on our great Nation, the American Soldier was once again sent to defeat an enemy that had struck our homeland and changed our Nation forever. As history has taught, the Global War on Terrorism will not be the last time the noble American Soldier will fight and die for this great country.
The concept for a day to honor those killed in war arose from the ashes of the Civil War. The unprecedented carnage and human destruction wrought by this war was on a scale not even imaginable a few years before, and it changed our view of war forever. Soon after the end of this terrible war in 1865, many local towns, in both the North and the South, began to decorate the graves of the Soldiers lost during this conflict. The first formal Memorial Day observance took place in Waterloo, New York, on May 5th, 1866. In 1873, the state of New York officially recognized Memorial Day as a legal holiday. Soon, other states also began to make it an official day of observance. The United States Congress got into the act in 1887, when it passed Joint Resolution 6, which "allows a day each year to celebrate a "memorial" or "decoration" day to be a holiday for all employees of the government." In 1971, Congress passed the "Monday Holiday Law," which changed the observance of Memorial Day from its traditional date of 30 May, to the last Monday in May.
On this Memorial Day, 2006, we are once again involved in hostilities in foreign lands. Our Soldiers are once again fighting and dying for the ideals that our Nation holds so dear. Our Nation is still able to call upon its son's and daughter's to go into harm's way to protect us and defend our way of life.
With over 2,300 killed in action in Iraq and more than 600 killed in Afghanistan, the youth of our Nation continue to fight and die for a cause larger than themselves. These young Soldiers are part of an unending line of proud citizens who answered our nation's Call to Duty. It is the service of the Soldiers around the world, and especially in the combat zones, that mark their sacrifice. Also, their families answer the Call to Duty by their unwavering support to their loved ones who are in harm's way. It is important that the American people continue to support our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines by honoring their service and welcoming them home.
It has been said that for a nation to be successful, the Nation must be willing to serve. Our Soldiers are the Army and will remain the centerpiece of our national security. For over 230 years, our Soldiers have followed a Warrior Ethos and system of values central to all that we do. They symbolize the nobility of selfless service and sacrifice, and even loss of their very lives, by those who answer the Call to Duty.
Our most potent weapon in this war, without a doubt, is the brave men and women in uniform. They come from all across America, from small towns and cities, and from various backgrounds. They volunteered and answered their Nation's Call to Duty. Many of them will go to war and some of them will not return. We must not forget their sacrifice.
This year, I invite all of you to join in an act of unity all Americans should observe- the national Moment of Remembrance - on Memorial Day. Not too long ago, when a group of school children was asked what Memorial Day means, they replied, "that's the day the pools open!"
On May 29, 2006, at 3 p.m., wherever you are, please pause for the Memorial Day - National Moment of Remembrance - established by Congress. This is a moment of reflection and rededication to give back to our country in memory of America's fallen. You will be demonstrating your gratitude for those who died for us. One nation, one moment - let us never forget.
This National Moment of Remembrance is an act of national unity that will last approximately one minute in duration. This moment is not meant to replace traditional Memorial Day events, but is an opportunity for all Americans to honor those who died for our freedom.
Your participation in this shared remembrance will help to unite the country in putting the "memorial" back in Memorial Day and demonstrate gratitude and respect for those who died so that we may live in freedom. We ask that at the appointed time, you, either alone or with family and friends, stop wherever you are and pause to think about those who paid for our freedom with their lives. Please ask others to remember - members of your command unit, family, friends, church, neighborhood, or co-workers to observe the moment.
"This nation does not forget" - President George W. Bush
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