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Gates Visits Normandy to Honor Lives Lost to Fight Oppression

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

COLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France, June 6, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today visited the Normandy Coast here to honor the almost 10,000 Americans killed during the D-Day invasion 63 years ago today and to offer a reminder that Americans are once again giving their lives to fight an enemy driven to destroy freedom. (Video)

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates tours the American cemetery during the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2007. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby, Department of Defense
  

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Gates, traveling here with new French Defense Minister Herve Morin, dedicated a visitor center at the American Cemetery that honors 9,387 Americans killed and 1,557 who went missing during the Normandy campaign.

“All are remembered and honored here,” Gates said. “All gave the last full measure of their devotion.”

He said the United States mourns the troops who died here and is grateful for those who survived the beaches and the battles that followed and helped Europe build a long-term peace.

Memorials like the one here provide an important reminder of the past “so that successive generations will know the enormous cost of freedom,” the secretary said.

Gates said the new visitor sender will help ensure that future generations never forget the stories of those who fought here and that time doesn’t “dim the glory of their deeds.”

“Sixty-three years ago, we fought together in the belief that the blood of free men could wash away the stains of tyranny,” he said. “And today, finally, the dream of a Europe whole and free is a reality.”

Gates said the D-Day anniversary serves as a reminder that Americans and Frenchmen share values that have transcend any differences they might have had in the past or have today.

“Throughout the many years of that long, twilight struggle, our partnership had its share of divisions and discord,” Gates told Morin. “But even when we disagreed on tactics, we remained unified in purpose. And today, finally, the dream of a Europe whole and free is a reality.”

Gates reminded the audience that the free world is again facing challenging times.

“We once again face enemies seeking to destroy our way of life, and we are once again engaged in an ideological struggle that may not find resolution for many years or even decades,” the secretary said. “Just (as) during World War II, free nations of the world are banding together -- and dying together -- to confront their common threat.”

As the United States, France and other free nations face this challenge, Gates urged them not to forget that history, values, even blood, continue to bind them.

“The blood of everyone who has ever perished in defense of the lofty ideals that gave rise to and still underpin our great alliance,” he said. “Those ideals were given their birth on this continent and given their renewal on battlefields like this one.”

Gates urged those here today never to forget what happened on these shores.

This place serves as an important reminder of the frailty of human life and the terrible costs of war -- but also, he said, of the courage and valor demonstrated by those who believed freedom was worth fighting for.

“We are grateful that out of the rubble of war, free nations conceived of and built a better future,” he said.

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
Speech Transcript: Visitor Center Dedication Normandy American Cemetery

Related Articles:
Gates, French Defense Minister Reaffirm Defense Ties


Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates pays respects during the playing of the national anthem as part of the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2007. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby, Department of Defense  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA U.S. veteran attends the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2007. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby, Department of Defense  
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