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Public Communications Division
Memorial Day Address
We’re here today in this solemn and beautiful place to honor Americans who’ve offered their lives in the name of liberty. We mourn their loss and grieve for the suffering they’ve endured. But our spirits soar as we contemplate the high purpose that called them to arms for their country.
Throughout our history America has come under assault from those who’ve sought to weaken freedom’s resolve. Each time the specter of tyranny has been raised, a generation of gallant warriors has answered the call with courage and conviction. For more than two and a quarter centuries they’ve performed their duties nobly and well.
The call of freedom summons us again in the war against terrorism. Today Americans are dispatched to distant regions of the earth in search of an elusive enemy. At home the threat of violence has heightened the vigilance of civilians and marshaled our homeland security forces.
The challenge before us is great, but the justness of our cause is clear. Once again we call on Americans to shoulder the staff of liberty in defense of a free and peace-loving nation.
Let us pray this morning for the continued success of Operation Enduring Freedom, and for the safe return of our men and women in uniform when their work is done.
Experience tells us that freedom’s spirit will not flinch in defense of ideals more powerful than the bombs of our enemies. Americans in uniform have always been guided by this fundamental truth.
In the summer of 1776 John Adams pondered the democratic course on which the new nation was embarked. The founders knew that a people intent on governing themselves would be targeted by adversaries seeking to destroy our unity and promote internal discord.
“I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration,” he wrote his wife Abigail. “Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that days transaction.”
The words of America’s second president are a covenant of faith. They unite us in spirit with the brave patriots who gave our nation life.
More than a million Americans have lost their lives in defense of freedom since the War for Independence. More than half of those fell in conflicts waged in the 20th Century alone. We remind ourselves today that they did not die in vain. They bequeathed the gift of liberty to our nation and its people. There is no better or nobler end worth living and dying for.
With us today are many veterans who’ve been brushed by the horror of war and survived. We come together this day to honor your service and speak of the sacrifices you’ve made for your country.
· You held your ground on a Sunday morning 61 years ago, when the skies above Pearl Harbor were thick with smoke, and the resolve of a peaceful nation was tested as never before.
· You stood proudly among the Chosin Few who confronted superior numbers in a barren land when temperatures dropped to 40 below.
· You scattered members of the National Liberation Front who fought their way through the streets of Saigon during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
You were there when we needed you, asking for nothing, giving your all. We offer the thanks and love of a grateful nation in return.
For those who have never experienced the pain of war first-hand, our ability to know what you and your families have gone through is limited. But we know full well the significance of the sacrifices you endured, and appreciate what your survival has meant to our nation.
We note with gratitude that your service to our community has extended beyond your time of active duty. We see this in the number of Hawaii veterans who share their wartime experiences with our schoolchildren. Americans young and old hunger to know the lessons of our history, even the painful ones, and who better to pass on this knowledge than those who’ve had a hand in writing it?
Heart-rending as they are, we listen to the stories of veterans who’ve survived the hardship of combat as prisoners of war. Men who’ve gazed into the eyes of death have much to teach about the value of life. They remind us that the gift of freedom must never be taken for granted.
Albert Frumkin and members of the Hawaii Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, attest to the triumph of survival in the face of war’s inhumanity. A 19-year-old artilleryman captured during the Battle of the Bulge, Commander Frumkin and thousands of others survived a grueling march to a stalag with nothing but snow to eat for 19 days. Twenty-five hundred members of the 106th Infantry Division never made it.
Fredric Foz joined the Filipino Scouts in 1939, was captured in April of 1942, and survived the Bataan Death March—one of the ghastliest ordeals in the history of modern warfare. This year marks the 60th anniversary of that infamous event in our history.
Nick Nishimoto went through basic training in Hawaii and shipped out to Japan just in time to see action in Korea in 1950. He and a close-knit group of local boys were captured that same year and placed in a prison camp in northern Korea.
Months of brainwashing, torture and starvation left him physically beaten but unbroken in spirit. Many of his comrades did not survive.
For every story of survival another tells of a courageous passing. This morning we honor the fallen heroes who never again felt the soil of liberty under their feet. To those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and to the families they left behind, we offer our thanks and our love, and renew our pledge of remembrance in perpetuity.
We pledge to support the work of the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, whose representatives are committed to the recovery and identification of service members killed in defense of their country.
This week at Hickam Air Force Base, remains believed to be those of four servicemen missing or unaccounted for from the war in Southeast Asia will begin their final journey home. We rejoice in the knowledge of their repatriation, and pray that one day soon they will be laid to rest with full military honors in their own hometowns.
This morning we gather in the gentle embrace of this memorial to keep a grateful nation’s promise. Our thoughts reach out to America’s bravest sons and daughters, as we renew our sacred vow to remember their names, honor their deeds, and consecrate the memory of their time on this earth.
Ours is a covenant of remembrance that stretches back to the bold beginnings of our nation’s infancy, and binds us in spirit to those who came before. It is the promise of this Memorial Day.
Thank you for joining us, and may God bless the United States of America.
|Tuesday, July 09, 2002|