USA — Obama: Memorial Day Honors Troop, Family Sacrifices

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2010 — Memo­r­i­al Day is a time for Amer­i­cans to remem­ber and hon­or the ulti­mate sac­ri­fices made by past and present gen­er­a­tions of U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said yes­ter­day dur­ing his week­ly address to the nation.

Each year on Nov. 11, Vet­er­ans Day, Amer­i­ca hon­ors all of its cit­i­zens who’ve worn a mil­i­tary uni­form, Oba­ma said. Yet, Memo­r­i­al Day is some­thing dif­fer­ent, he said.

“On this day,” Oba­ma said, “we hon­or not just those who’ve worn this country’s uni­form, but the men and women who’ve died in its ser­vice; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fel­low cit­i­zens; who’ve giv­en their last full mea­sure of devo­tion to pro­tect the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.

“These are the men and women I will be hon­or­ing this week­end, and I know many of you are doing the same,” said the pres­i­dent, who tomor­row will pro­vide Memo­r­i­al Day remarks at Abra­ham Lin­coln Nation­al Ceme­tery in Elwood, Ill.

From the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War to the present day, gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans have been will­ing to take up arms — and die, if nec­es­sary — in order to pre­serve the nation’s free­doms, Oba­ma said.

“That com­mit­ment – that will­ing­ness to lay down their lives so we might inher­it the bless­ings of this nation – is what we hon­or today,” Oba­ma said. “But on this Memo­r­i­al Day, as on every day, we are called to hon­or their ulti­mate sac­ri­fice with more than words. We are called to hon­or them with deeds.”

Amer­i­ca also hon­ors its fall­en war­riors, he said, by sup­port­ing the sur­viv­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers who must car­ry on after their loved ones have passed.

“We are called to hon­or them by doing our part for the loved ones our fall­en heroes have left behind and look­ing after our mil­i­tary fam­i­lies,” Oba­ma said. “By mak­ing sure the men and women serv­ing this coun­try around the world have the sup­port they need to achieve their mis­sions and come home safe­ly. By mak­ing sure vet­er­ans have the care and assis­tance they need.

“In short,” he con­tin­ued, “by serv­ing all those who have ever worn the uni­form of this coun­try – and their fam­i­lies – as well as they have served us.”

Oba­ma recalled a post-Civ­il War inci­dent that occurred April 25, 1866, when a group of women in Colum­bus, Miss., vis­it­ed a local ceme­tery to place flow­ers on the graves of Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers who had died dur­ing the Bat­tle of Shiloh.

As the women placed the flow­ers, he said, they noticed that a near­by group of Union sol­dier graves was bare of flow­ers.

“But no one had come to vis­it those [Union] graves, or place a flower there,” Oba­ma said. The women, he said, then “decid­ed to lay a few stems for those men, too, in recog­ni­tion not of a fall­en Con­fed­er­ate or a fall­en Union sol­dier, but a fall­en Amer­i­can.”

A few years lat­er, he said, a group of Civ­il War vet­er­ans estab­lished what even­tu­al­ly became Memo­r­i­al Day, pick­ing a date when the spring flow­ers are in bloom.

“So this week­end, as we com­mem­o­rate Memo­r­i­al Day, I ask you to hold all our fall­en heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest,” Oba­ma said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)