Panetta Urges Nation to Remember Fallen Troops on Memorial Day
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 28, 2012 In his Memorial Day message, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta urged Americans to remember and honor the sacrifice of U.S. service members who died in the nation’s wars.
“For many Americans, Memorial Day is a welcome break from work, a time for outdoor barbeques or a day at the beach,” Panetta said. “But today is, above all, an opportunity for Americans to come together and pay tribute to all those who have fought and died in defense of our freedom.”
“It is a day to reflect on the service and sacrifice of these heroes, and to honor those American families for whom Memorial Day is another day of longing for their loved ones,” he said.
This Memorial Day, Panetta said, the American people pay particular tribute to the generation who stepped forward after the 9-11 attacks and volunteered to put their lives on the line in far-off lands to protect our nation.
“Today, we remember the more than 6,400 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen who have paid the ultimate price for us to live in safety over the last ten years of war,” the secretary said. “They, and their families, have paid a heavy price so that we could be more secure, but because of their sacrifice the torch of freedom burns bright.”
Panetta said since taking his current position as defense secretary he’s written hundreds of letters of condolence to the families of the fallen and described it as “the hardest part” of his job.
“There are no words that can heal, no sentences that can lessen that loss,” he said. “I keep the fallen and their families in my heart and in my prayers, and I tell those families that their loved one died to give their fellow Americans a better life.”
“[This] is the price they paid for us,” Panetta added. “Let us never forget them and what they have done for this country.”
The secretary noted the country must reaffirm its commitment to fallen troops and their families for their sacrifices.
“As we emerge from a decade of war, we must renew our pledge on this Memorial Day to do all we can to ensure that the sacrifices of our service members and their families are honored, and that those who fell in battle are remembered,” Panetta said. “They fought for us.”
“Our duty is to fight to make sure they are never forgotten,” he said. “As Americans, that must be our charge and our sacred mission not just on Memorial Day, but every day.”