Memorial Day Speech, May 30, 2011
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I am honored to be here with you today as we reflect on the service and sacrifice of our nation's servicemembers and veterans who have so selflessly given of themselves on behalf of our nation and our freedoms. But more than that, I am humbled - humbled by your service, your sacrifice, and your strength of spirit.
Two years ago, I spent Memorial Day in Normandy, France. We visited the American Cemetery and walked the same beaches that sixty-seven years ago were the site of the largest and most memorable amphibious invasion in history.
But the sand we walked on and the dunes we climbed looked a lot different than they did almost seven decades ago. We did not have to climb over the bodies of our fallen friends to reach dry land. We did not have to run across blood soaked sand or dodge enemy fire as we crossed the beach. We were able to visit the site and pay homage without distraction because of the brave men and women who came before us and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our security.
Some of the men who actually participated in the D-Day invasion were present that day in 2009. Being in their company made me feel much like I do here with you today - proud of my country and the men and women who have fought to protect it and humbled by the service of American citizens who served, and some who died, so that we can all be here today.
These were members of the Greatest Generation, my father's generation. They returned home from war to a grateful nation and helped build our country into what it is today. And while many walk with a cane or need a wheelchair, they still possess the quiet confidence and strong determination that helped them through the dark days of their youth in Europe and the Pacific.
They fought a war that was much different from what today's men and women in uniform contend with, but their spirit of service and sacrifice lives on in their children and grandchildren who are involved in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places across the globe. The same sense of devotion that was present in the hearts of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy exists in the hearts and minds of younger men and women who are serving as we speak.
Not only are these most recent wars different, but so are the communities our youngest veterans return to after leaving active duty. Those who have returned from war are forever changed by their experience. Some of them are missing limbs, while others return without a true sense of belonging in their communities. For the ones who have made it back after devastating wounds, their experiences are not only life-altering for them, but also for their families.
Memorial Day is an important reminder that much remains to be done on behalf of the most vulnerable warriors who need more than our passing sentiments and our good intentions. We must remind ourselves that their survival and success is not assured, and their toughest days of rehabilitation and re-integration often lie ahead.
Today, and every day, let us honor and remember the heroes of all of our nation's wars, particularly those who did not make it home to lead full lives, and let us also renew our commitment to cherish and empower those who were fortunate enough to come home and who face their own challenges as they strive to contribute to the success of this great nation.
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