STUTTGART, Germany - Memorial Day is a day of special meaning to Americans: a day when we pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.

Every year, we commemorate this holiday with memorial services at well-known military cemeteries, such as Arlington National Cemetery and American cemeteries in Europe and Asia. This Memorial Day, I would like to call your attention to a less-known place, the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Tunisia, on the outskirts of the ancient city of Carthage, a resting place for fallen warriors over the past two millennia. The majority of the 2,841 Americans laid to rest here were killed during the North African campaign of World War II. Another 3,724 names are inscribed on the Wall of the Missing. Despite their bravery, their efforts are a part of our military history that has garnered far less attention than D-Day and the subsequent pursuit across France. Yet, the hard-won successes in North Africa set the stage for the later Allied victory in Europe and the Pacific. Without the American sacrifices in North Africa, D-Day might not have happened, or would have taken a very different form.

Much has changed since the Americans buried in Tunisia gave their lives. The German and Italian enemy they so fiercely battled have now become good friends of the United States. The countries of North Africa are no longer European colonies and have become proud, independent nations. Economic and political relationships have become globalized, and our greatest adversaries are often not strong states, but non-state actors operating in weak and fragile countries. And in many regions of the world, including Africa, the focus of our military is increasingly not on warfighting, but on strengthening cooperation and building the capacity of our partners to manage their own security.

Although the world has changed in many ways, the reasons we celebrate Memorial Day have not. We maintain faith in the value of heroism. Our service members continue to live and serve by the principles of duty, honor, integrity, courage, and selflessness. We still love our country and respect its founding tenets of democracy and human rights. And we will always honor our sisters and brothers who make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the Constitution of the United States and the freedom that makes our country great.

This Memorial Day, I encourage all of us, military and civilian, to not only honor our country's fallen heroes, but also reflect upon their own honor, duty, and service to their nation. I have said many times that U.S. Africa Command will be judged not by our words but the by the deeds of all of us as we work with our partners. Every day, we must strive to make our actions reflect the honor and values of those who, in past conflicts, paid the supreme sacrifice so that future peoples -- not just Americans, but people everywhere -- could live in peace.

Page last updated Thu May 27th, 2010 at 18:34