Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goertzman—thanks for your work on a worthy project to tell the story of America’s Veterans to a wider audience. distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Most importantly, the Veterans in attendance today; welcome to Washington, DC, and to your magnificent monument;
I am a proud Navy Veteran, and proud son of a Navy Veteran who volunteered and served in both World War II and Korea. Though he did not see combat, my father, like the 16 million other Americans who were bound together in that mighty military force of men and women, stood tall for his country.
One hundred and forty seven years ago, Abraham Lincoln, addressing an audience assembled on the site of the Gettysburg battlefield, spoke for less than three minutes in praise of “those who gave their lives that [our] nation might live.” In those brief minutes, President Lincoln defined the very nature of sacrifice for a greater good, and honored the memories of the men who rose, and fell, in freedom’s cause.
I am honored to speak here today on behalf of Secretary Shinseki and the employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, where our motto, in Lincoln’s words again, is “To care for him who shall have borne the battle.” Today, we meet at the memorial to another great battlefield—one encompassing the length and breadth of the Pacific Ocean. On, above, and under that maritime theatre of war, American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen fought courageously so that our nation, and all nations so dedicated to a just and common cause, might continue to live.
The men gathered here today are such men, heroes from the Greatest Generation, honored for what they did over six and a half decades ago.To the Veterans we honor today—patriots who took on a determined enemy on bloody beachheads and nameless atolls, from the decks of your ships and submarines, to the cockpits of your planes—you defined the heroism of a generation. Today, we honor your legacy by fulfilling the obligation we all have to remember and to share your stories with all Americans. We want them to know your stories so that they can better understand the price of freedom.
Last year, President Obama joined us at VA as we celebrated 20 years as a cabinet level department. Speaking of our obligation to Veterans, he said, “When our fellow citizens commit themselves to shed blood for us, that binds our fates with theirs in a way that nothing else can. And in the end, caring for those who have given their fullest measure of devotion to us—and for their families—is a matter of honor, as a nation and as a people.” World War II Veterans of the war in the Pacific—thank you for your service and your sacrifice.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause—for today we stand in the presence of heroes.