Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remarks by the Vice-President Biden on Memorial Day transcript

This is the greatest honor of my public life as have ever been given to me, have the opportunity to address all of you on Memorial Day on this hollow ground. To the superintendent Mestler, thank you for your care and attention to these hollow grounds and thanks to the Old Guard who stand watching over those who gave their lives standing watch over us and thanks to all the service member responsible and representative of every branch of the military, all across America. We’re sure that on this day, those who served under our flag have a flag standing proudly before their headstones, a decoration worthy of their dignity.

Collectively, the generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served and sacrificed for us are the heart and soul, and I would say, spine of this nation. And as a nation, we pause today to remember them. They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us. And in doing so, they imparted a responsibility on us to recognize, to respect, to honor and to care for those who risked their lives so that we can live our lives.

Moments ago, I had the distinct honor and high privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This morning, I welcomed to the White House the Gold Star families, who know all too well the price of their loved ones’ patriotism. I met Ruth Stonesifer, the current President of the Gold Star Mothers, who lost her son Kristofor on the first night of major operations in Afghanistan on October of 2001; and Emogene Cupp, the mother who played a pivotal role in the early stages of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and unveiled the first panel; to Terry Davis, a remarkable champion of Gold Star families. Terry, God love her, is a Gold Star sister, a Gold Star wife, and a Gold Star mother -- none should be asked to sacrifice that much.

And I met the parents, the brother, and the beautiful widow of John Hallet. I had the privilege of meeting this family when I attended the memorial service at Fort Lewis in Washington State. John served in a Stryker Brigade that was among the hardest hit in Afghanistan. He left behind a wife, two young sons, and an infant daughter who he never got to meet -- but who I hope will grow up with the pride in her father filling part of the void that’s left by his loss.

Each of the Gold Star families embodies, in the words of John Milton, “Those also serve who only stand and wait.” Many of you in this amphitheater here today have stood and waited, relieved -- as Jill and I were -- at the return of a loved one, in our case our son from a year in Iraq. Many of you are now waiting, with family members still overseas, many in harm’s way. And some of you have stood and waited for a loved one that did not return and live now with the knowledge that your will one day be reunited with him, with our heavenly Father.

To those who have lost a loved one in the service of our nation, I recall a famous headstone in Ireland. And the headstone reads as follows, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” No one can steal the memory from you. I can tell you from my own personal experience that eventually the pain and heartache you now feel will eventually, God-willing, be replaced by the joyful memory of the son or daughter or husband and wife or father or mother that you loved so dearly and lost. Jill and my prayer for you is that that day will come sooner rather than later. But it will come, I promise you.

Today is a day with sorrow mixed with incredible pride. We mourn those we’ve lost and we hold fast to their memories and we take pride, great pride in the lives they lived, in the service they provided, in the nation they created, saved and strengthened. Early this month, Steven Banco was kind enough to send my wife Jill some of the speeches right after we were elected. Steven Banco who won two silver stars, four bronze stars air medal and four purple hearts, all in Vietnam, spoke at the dedication of the Purple Heart Memorial, in Buffalo, New York, and he said and I quote “Most people think of the battle field as a province of hate, fear and anger. When you’ve fought, and you’ve bled and you’ve risked and you’ve survived, you recognize it is something entirely different.

Hatreted would hardly be enough to make a soldier leave a safe position to rescue a buddy; fear would never make one share his last sip of water with a dying comrade; and anger would never motivate a nurse to stand tall in a bloody operation room for half a day or longer to put a blasted soldier or marine back together. No, only love, only love can motive that kind of heroism, only love can trigger that kind of courage. Only love. Love is why we’re here today, to show our love for the men and women who died showing their love for this great country and to honor the families who shared that love even more deeply. As I look over the headstones of those who gave their lives to win our independence, to save our nation, to save our Union, to defend against fascism and communism, I wonder. I wonder what they’d think of this nation and of this world today, I wonder what they’d think of this new generation of warriors. For the forces of globalization have made the world across which they must fight much smaller. And as the world around us shrinks, it means trouble half way around the globe can and will visit us, no matter how high our walls or how wide our oceans. Our men and women in uniform know full well that the promises and the perils of this time have never been greater. The threats to American security are more widely spread geographically than never before and the spread of weapons of mass destruction and dangers, diseases, economic dislocation and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, ethnic animosity and failed states. The challenges the freedom and security and we face radical fundamentalism. Now, this new generation of warriors stands watch, protecting America all of these new treats and it will take and it has taken equally great sacrifice as those who have gone before them. From Fallugia to Margia, from Bagdad to Kandahar, from Basra, Basra to the Conar Valley, from Helmond to Anbar. Our nation has lost 4.391 service men and women in Operation Iraq Freedom, 1.074 in Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan. They were the best of us, they were blood, they were bones of our bones, blood of our blood, they were our treasure. The force of arms that won our independence and throughout our history it has been the force of arms that has protected our freedom. That will not change. Nor will our sacred obligation, the only obligation a government has that is truly sacred, our sacred obligation to provide these warriors with everything they need to complete their mission and everything they need, and I might add, deserve when they come home.

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But these new warriors are a special breed, they’re warriors, but they are also bright, educated and committed by those who have gone before. They understand that the example of our power must be matched by the power of our example. And we owe it to them, to the capture of the totality of America strength. For all of you know our elementary strength lies in our values. That’s what brought every one of the men and women in this hollowed cemetery, to untimely, give their lives, upholding our values and in upholding our values we’re made stronger. The objective of our new enemy is to change what we value, to change how we live our lives, to change what it means to be an American. It has been my honor over the last two decades to visit our troops from Bosnia to Kosovo, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, from six young warriors in a fore operating base high in the mountains of northeast Afghanistan, in the upper Counar Valley to a crowded mess halls, in Camp Liberty, in Iraq. And every time, every time I can say without a fear of contradiction I come away impressed with the intelligence, the grip, the resolve and the patriotism of these young women and men. These are the finest military the world has ever produced, period.

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And if anyone has ever had a doubt about that should have come with me three days ago when that conviction was reinforced when I had the great privilege and honor to addressing this year graduating class at the Naval Academy. As part of that service there was an award given to someone, young Marine, showing the qualities will make him a future leader of the Marine Corps. The award was named for a Marine named Dough Zambick. Major Zambick was a captain at Eco company during Operation Vigilant Resolve, in 2004. Because of his heroism, in the early ground assault, he became know as the lion of Fallugia. Three years ago, this month, Dough was shot and killed, while leading Iraqi troupes he was helping train. It was his fourth tour. Silver Star, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, Dough was a warrior, a warrior of whom this nation can be proud. Major Zambick is buried just on the hill from here, in section 60, site 8621. And when he was laid to rest, his best friend read from Dough’s personal notebook, in which Major Zambick wrote this words encapsulating his philosophy, he said “be a man of principle, fight for what you believe in, keep you word, be brave, believe in something bigger than yourself, serve your country, teach, mentor, give something back to society, lead from the front and conquer your fears”. These words, in my view, convey the character and the purpose of all of those we remember today. They lived with integrity, they served nobly, they gave everything, they fought for what they believe in, and maybe, most important, they believed in something bigger than themselves. They believed in all of you, they believed in all of us and they believed in America. So on this day, this solemn day, let us try once again to be to be individuals in a nation worthy of that belief. May God bless you, may God protect our troops and may continue to bless the memory of all those who have died so that we may live.

Thank you.

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