Nov. 10, 2009 - Fort Hood Memorial Service Remarks
November 10, 2009
President and Mrs. Obama, Governor Perry, Governor Doyle, Secretary Gates, Secretary Shinseki, many distinguished Members of Congress from across the state of Texas and across the country, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Admiral and Mrs. Mike Mullen, Families, and Friends.
It's a tradition in one of our Special Operations units to go to the Book of Isaiah when they are eulogizing fallen comrades. Proud of their willingness to accept any challenge for this country, at the funeral they read: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us'' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"
This passage conveys a sentiment that applies to every Soldier in our Army. It gives voice to a spirit of service that lives in every Soldier ... it's a spirit we saw in the thirteen Soldiers who gave their lives here ... men and women who believed in the values and ideals that this country stands for ... men and women who willingly served those ideals ... newlyweds, single moms, immigrants, teenagers, and "fifty-somethings" ... all bound together by the common desire to find meaning in something greater than themselves.
The violence that led to the deaths of these thirteen Americans and the wounding of dozens of others was unimaginable. It was a kick in the gut. The men and women who were killed had more than a century of service to this country. Their loss has left nineteen children, spouses, parents, and untold loved ones. What happened this past Thursday will impact the Families, the Fort Hood community, and our Army for a long time to come.
But with the shock and senselessness of the tragedy, came the courageous actions of the first responders and caregivers; the selflessness of fellow Soldiers who risked their lives to help one another; the calm leadership of the command; and the overwhelming outpouring of support from the community. These responses in the aftermath of tragedy have been uplifting ... if not heroic.
That we saw countless examples of our Warrior Ethos in action last week is a great source of pride. Our Soldiers and Army Civilians lived the Warrior Ethos that day ... just as our Soldiers and Civilians live it every day in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world: "I will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; and I will never leave a fallen comrade."
Our ethos and our values are woven into the very fabric of our Army. Our Soldiers are cut from the cloth of this great country ... a country they love and serve in a time of war.
We all serve at a time when the stakes for our country and our way of life are high. Yet in every generation, when faced with difficult challenges, Americans have risen to the occasion. Today, our Soldiers answer the call to serve with the same pride and professionalism that have marked the United States Army's service for 234 years.
Yes ... our Soldiers, Civilians, and their Families carry a heavy burden in this war. Yet their willingness to sacrifice to preserve our way of life and to build a better future for others is a great strength of this Nation. They - as do the thirteen Soldiers that we honor today - epitomize the best of America.
The Army and Fort Hood are no strangers to pain and tragedy and loss. As many of us know personally and all too well, that's been the case for the last eight years. But we are an Army that has drawn strength from that adversity. So as we grieve as an Army Family ... as we wrap our arms around the Families of our fallen comrades, I would say to you all: "Grieve with us ... don't grieve for us." Those who have fallen did so in the service of their country ... they freely answered the call to serve ... and they gave their lives for something that they loved and believed in.
I am extremely proud of the competence, the courage, and the commitment of our Soldiers, Families, Civilians, and Veterans. And I am convinced more than ever that - when faced with the question "Who will go for us'" - they will answer to a person: "Here am I ... Send me!"
Thank you very much. God bless the Families of the fallen and the men and women of our armed forces.