Below we present a collection of tributes honoring those brave soldiers who have laid down their lives while safeguarding the freedom and security of "the last, best hope" of mankind. As we remember those who gave all to bring a new birth of freedom to those in distant lands, we offer our support for those currently serving overseas, knowing at any moment they may join their forebears in the ranks of those who offered the ultimate sacrifice that we may continue to enjoy the God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. May God bless them, and you, this Memorial Day. -- The Editors.
President's Weekly Radio Address for May 28, 2005
by President George W. Bush
This Memorial Day weekend, Americans pay tribute to those who have given their lives in the service of our nation. As we honor the members of our Armed Forces who have died for our freedom, we also honor those who are defending our liberties today.
On Friday, I met with some of the courageous men and women who will soon take their place in the defense of our freedom: the graduating class of the United State s Naval Academy. These new officers will soon be serving on ships, flying combat missions, and leading our troops into battle against dangerous enemies. They are prepared for the challenges ahead -- morally, mentally, and physically. The American people can be confident that their freedom is in good hands.
Our citizens live in freedom because patriots are willing to serve and sacrifice for our liberty. And on Monday, I will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, a victory for freedom in which more than 400,000 Americans gave their lives. Today a new generation of Americans is making its own sacrifice on behalf of peace and freedom, and some have given their lives.
In their hometowns, these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are more than names on a roll of honor. They were friends and neighbors, teachers and coaches, classmates and colleagues. Each was the most important person in someone's life; each had hopes for the future, and each left a place that can never be filled.
We mourn their loss, and we honor their sacrifice. We pray for their families. And we take heart in knowing that these men and women believed deeply in what they were fighting for. Christopher Swisher was a staff sergeant from Lincoln, Nebraska, who joined the Army a year after graduating from high school. He was killed in an ambush while on patrol in Baghdad. Sergeant Swisher told his loved ones: "If anything happens to me, I'm doing what I want to be doing -- I'm protecting my family and my home."
Rafael Peralta also understood that America faces dangerous enemies, and he knew the sacrifices required to defeat them. An immigrant from Mexico, he enlisted in the Marine Corps the day after he got his green card. Just before the battle of Fallujah, he wrote his 14-year-old brother, "We are going to defeat the insurgents. Be proud of me, I'm going to make history and do something that I always wanted to do." A few days later, Sergeant Peralta gave his life to save his fellow Marines.
This Memorial Day, we remember Sergeant Peralta, Sergeant Swisher, and all who have given their lives for our nation. And we honor them as we continue to wage the war on terror and spread freedom across the world. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are determined to secure their freedom, and we will help them. We're training Iraqi and Afghan forces so they can take the fight to the enemy and defend their own countries, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.
Throughout our history, America has fought not to conquer but to liberate. We go to war reluctantly, because we understand the high cost of war. Those who have given their lives to defend America have the respect and gratitude of our entire nation.
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As we pause to remember our fallen comrades this Memorial Day, we need to take time to give thought to their families, their friends and to those who love them. We cannot measure the depth of their loss nor can we comprehend the true measure of their sorrow. They served their nation well, standing between the enemy, and us, between good and evil, between freedom and tyranny. Their service came not as a burden but as a duty.
To properly honor them, we must speak of them in real and human terms. They were more than our friends: They were our buddies, And they were closer than family in many ways because we developed a kinship with them that only those who have experienced the realities of war can understand. We honor their memory, but at the same time we mourn them. We are grateful for the privilege of knowing them and having them included in our lives. What is finest about our nation--individual freedom, justice, equality and opportunity -- has been sustained because of them. And for that every American is in their debt.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, Commander-in-Chief
The Meaning of Memorial Day
by The Washington Times
Today we observe a solemn celebration of freedom. Memorial Day is an occasion of remembrance and a rededication — a commemoration of those who have fallen and a celebration of those who serve.
Today, as in 1863, the nation is at war. It is a struggle not with ourselves, but with those who seek to deny us our freedom. In this battle, it is not just soldiers who face the ultimate sacrifice. Americans of all ages, creeds and parties are under threat. Indeed the entire world and all who inhabit it are under threat from Islamist fanatics and other violent radicals. It seems right, therefore, to recall that America's struggle is the world's struggle — it is the test that transcends the ages: "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure," Lincoln said.
Long ago, in a land that gave birth to the ideals we as Americans cherish, the Athenian Pericles asked his fellow citizens to honor the dead. He said, "I believe that a death such as theirs has been the true measure of a man's worth; it may be the first revelation of his virtues, but is at any rate their final seal. For even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valor with which they have fought for their country; they have blotted out the evil with the good, and have benefited the state more by their public services than they have injured her by their private actions. None of these men were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life; none of them put off the evil day in the hope, natural to poverty, that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that the punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determined at the hazard of their lives to be honorably avenged, and to leave the rest. They resigned to hope their unknown chance of happiness; but in the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. And when the moment came, they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives; they ran away from the word dishonor, but on the battlefield their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory."
The ideals of freedom have changed little since they were first defined in ancient Greece. From its founding, it has fallen to America to honor and advance them. The dedication and the sacrifice of freedom's defenders is no less great in Baghdad and Kabul than it was in Gettysburg, Lexington and on the plains of Marathon. Neither words nor deeds can fully pay tribute to those among us who gave, and who are still giving, so much for the cause of liberty; those who have guarded us with their valor and still protect us with their vigilance.
Memorial Day should open with the same principles that have served since the beginning of the republic.
- With the red, white and blue. Memorial Day is a day for Americans to proudly display their patriotism. Each flag that is raised today is a testament to our enemies that we will never bow. As our G.I.s once did on the charred peak of Mt. Suribachi, hoist it high. Put the flag on the car antenna or the bumper. Hang it from the window or on the porch.
- With a cheer. U.S. troops should be applauded loudly, whether it is at a worship service or a parade. Soldiers should be showered with audible accolades wherever they are recognized.
- With a moment to remember. The White House Commission on Remembrance has requested that Americans take a minute today at 3 p.m. EST to remember the reason for our day off. Say a prayer, hug a loved one, turn on your car's headlights, or simply take a moment of silence.
- With a heartfelt thank you. Today, Washington will be blessed with an abundance of veterans. Take a second to shake their hands, pat them on the back or perhaps buy one a drink. Do not forget those heading back into battle or the homeland security, police officers, firefighters and other first responders manning their posts.
Above all, honor the nation's fallen by honoring the meaning of this day. While the sun shines, the dead should be remembered at their final resting places — who they were, where they fell and why they fought.
There are many places to pay tribute.
- The silent pathways at Arlington Memorial Cemetery and the black angle of the Vietnam Memorial; the towering columns at the World War II Memorial and the nameless statues at the Korean War Memorial. The thousands of markers of sacrifice across the land, from Pearl Harbor to Ground Zero; from beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Iraq.
- The usually ignored statues scattered across the city. The dedication of perhaps the greatest strategist of the Revolutionary War, Nathanael Greene, who sits astride his horse at Stanton Park between Fourth and Sixth Streets NE on Capitol Hill. There's Gen. George Gordon Meade, standing between Third and Fourth Streets NW, and Commodore John Paul Jones, who stands at Independence Avenue and 17th St. NW.
- The stories of the fallen, which can be found on the Internet with a point and click. The New York Times still maintains its monument of memory of those who lost their lives on September 11 at www.nytimes.com/pages/national/portraits/index.html. The Defense Department keeps an updated list of those who have fallen in the war on terror at www.defendamerica.mil/fallen.html.
Memorial Day is a day to rededicate ourselves to the American ideal. Before the Taps sounds today, renewed appeals to liberty must resound across the land.
Memorial Day should close with a pledge and a promise.
- A promise to never forget our founding principles. At the Pentagon's website, each obituary for those killed on September 11 ends with "We will not forget...." On that day, Americans were targeted for what we believe. Dedication to those same principles put Americans in the sights of British Redcoats at Breed's Hill; in the crosshairs of German artillery at Bastogne; on a plane over a field in Pennsylvania, where Todd Beamer said, "Let's roll." Rolling, Todd, rolling. Dedication to those self-evident principles has made America hated by autocrats and Islamist fascists, but loved by the orphans of tyranny.
- A promise to renew our devotion. Memorial Day is a day to commit to taking not just a single minute of one day, but several moments each day to renew our duty to this republic. To recite the Pledge of Allegiance, hand over heart. To bow our head or doff a cap when passing by the weathered markers and newly dug graves at Arlington. To remain still for a few seconds after the last note of the national anthem, taking the brief space before the game starts to remember those who are in danger while others are at play.
Finally, Memorial Day begins each day that Americans honor their soldiers and remember their heroes. Addressing veterans at Normandy's Pointe du Hoc on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan said, "You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you...Thank you very much."
Bill Maher Owes Another Apology
by Charles M. Grist, Orlando Sentinel
It was the summer of 1972 and John Kerry's group, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, was in the midst of an anti-war march through the streets of downtown Gainesville. Blocked from proceeding through the intersection by dozens of men in Army jackets, I was disgusted to see that they were not only carrying the American flag upside down, they were carrying the flag of the communist Viet Cong as well.
One of them saw the paratrooper and Ranger decals in the window of my 1969 Mustang. He came over and asked me to join the march. I told him to get out of my face. I was indeed a Vietnam veteran, but I had no intention of giving aid and comfort to the enemy or of dishonoring the memory of the soldiers I knew who had been killed in action.
The freedom to protest is an important one. All of us who have fought for this country did so to help maintain that freedom and all the other rights that Americans enjoy.
However, we did not go into harm's way to allow our fellow citizens to help our enemy. There is a great difference between freedom of speech and giving propaganda ammunition to the bad guys.
Jane Fonda's despicable behavior in North Vietnam was the act of a traitor. She can apologize all she wants, now (so that people will see her latest movie or buy her book), but those of us who served in Vietnam will not forget what she did, or forget how our prisoners of war suffered because of her actions.
Now, we have some new Hollywood military experts. The latest is comedian Bill Maher, who made a fool out of himself after Sept. 11, 2001, by arguing that the terrorists weren't cowards when they flew airplanes into our neighbors. He apologized for that remark, but now he is at it again.
On the May 13 broadcast of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, he referred to the Army's recruiting difficulties by saying that "we've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies." This comment does a great disservice to the brave members of all the military services.
Maher's lack of common sense is comparable to Sean Penn's pre-war visit to his buddy, Saddam Hussein. These guys are hungry for publicity in any form, and honestly believe that their celebrity status makes them experts in world affairs. These two "famous" men are probably not capable of understanding the level of sacrifice it takes for a man or woman to enlist, train under unbelievably difficult circumstances, and go thousands of miles away to fight for their country.
People like Maher and Penn live in a pseudo-world of self-indulgence, makeup and mirrors. They cannot begin to comprehend a real world full of real bad guys who want to take away all your freedoms and then kill you. Even George Lucas, whose latest Star Wars movie is alleged to be a commentary on the war in Iraq, only knows the villains he has created in his fantasy universe. The real Darth Vader is Osama bin Laden.
The England comment paints all soldiers with the same brush and minimizes the service of men and women who are giving their all for their country. England and her cohorts are getting exactly what they deserve for dishonoring their uniform and themselves. Thousands of our soldiers continue to serve with honor and integrity and are making a difference in the world.
In this life, there are those who "talk" and those who "do." The men and women who are willing to stand up and fight for their fellow citizens are the greatest of the doers. They don't achieve the fame of celebrities, but they achieve greatness, nonetheless. They give their hearts, souls, blood and, sometimes, their lives. They deserve only our respect and undying gratitude.
You may apologize again, Mr. Maher.
Charles M. Grist is an Army veteran of both Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is a master police officer with the Altamonte Springs Police Department.