WASHINGTON, May 31, 2010 — President Barack Obama called on the nation during a Memorial Day address at Joint Base Andrews, Md., to honor the legacy of its fallen warriors and to live lives worthy of their sacrifices.
“At its core, the nobility and majesty of Memorial Day can be found in the story of ordinary Americans who became extraordinary for the most simple of reasons: they loved their country so deeply, so profoundly, that they were willing to give their very lives to keep it safe and free,” Obama told an assembly of several dozen servicemembers today after landing in Washington from a weekend in Chicago.
He initially had been slated to deliver his address at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois, but torrential rains and lightning cancelled that event. Instead, he visited wounded veterans and their families receiving care at the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital near Chicago.
Obama noted during his address at Andrews tonight the fallen warriors’ shared belief in their country throughout its history, and willingness to sacrifice lives of comfort, and ultimately, life itself, to protect its ideals.
“They answered their country’s call. They stepped forward. They raised their hand. They took an oath,” he said.
As they served their country in uniform throughout its history, they left their loved ones when duty called. In doing so, they liberated countries, ended the Holocaust, rid towns of insurgents and saved villages from the terror of violent extremists, he noted.
They fought for freedom and the flag, the president said. But they also fought for each other, to bring their buddies home and keep their families safe. “And that is what they did, to their last breath,” he said.
“This is what we honor today — the lives they led, the service they rendered, the sacrifice they made — for us,” he said.
“In this time of war, we pay special tribute to the thousands of Americans who have given their lives during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and who have earned their place among the greatest of generations,” he said. “And though our hearts ache in their absence, we find comfort in knowing that their legacy shines bright in the people they loved: America’s Gold Star families.”
The legacy of America’s fallen lives on, the president said.
It lives through their parents who instilled the values and virtues that led them to service. It lives through their spouses who gave the nation the person they cherished most. It lives through their children, whose parents gave their lives so they could live theirs. And it lives through those who fought alongside them – veterans and troops still serving in harm’s way.
“Just as you keep alive the memory of your fallen friends, America must keep its commitments to you,” Obama told the servicemembers. “That means providing the support our troops and families need, and the health care and benefits our veterans deserve. This is our sacred trust to all who serve, and upholding that trust is our moral obligation.”
Obama called on all Americans to live lives worthy of the sacrifices its fallen heroes have made, and that the country’s men and women in uniform continue to make every day.
“The legacy of these fallen heroes lives on in each of us,” he said. “The security that lets us live in peace, the prosperity that allows us to pursue our dreams, the freedoms that we cherish — these were earned by the blood and sacrifice of patriots who went before.
“Now it falls to us to preserve this inheritance for all who follow.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)