Thank you, Admiral Winnefeld, and thank you for your service. And of all of our men and women in uniform and their families here today, thank you for your service. Mr. President, and distinguished guests. I want to add a special welcome and acknowledgement to our Korean War veterans who helped bring peace and security to the peninsula before and after the war, and to their families: thank you all for your service and your great sacrifice.
Korean War veterans stepped forward at a defining time in our history – when we were beginning to understand, as Franklin Roosevelt said in his fourth Inaugural Address, that “we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent upon the well-being of other nations, far away.”
That reality was brought home when Communist armies crossed the 38th parallel in 1950.
As President Eisenhower later put it – we must and we did – we met this aggression “not with pathetic words of protest, but with deeds of decisive purpose.” America’s armed forces liberated millions of people from tyranny. We stood with our fellow citizens of the world, even though they lived on the other side of the world. And we did it not alone.
We forged a lasting partnership with the Republic of Korea – one that has endured for more than six decades because of our shared values and shared sacrifice. And we built trust with allies in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Together, we acted out a belief that peace and security among nations must depend upon the rule of law, not the rule of force.
Twenty-two countries contributed military or humanitarian aid under the banner of the United Nations during the Korean War. Their names are rightly inscribed here at this memorial, for they showed the world that different peoples and different nations can accomplish many, many good things for the world when we work together.
The Korean War teaches us an important lesson – that alliances and international institutions are extensions of our influence, not constraints on our power. And they are critical to our long-term vision of peace and stability, especially in the Asia-Pacific.
In remembering the end of the Korean War, we also commemorate the beginning of a new era – a new era in the history of the region: a period of unprecedented growth, security, and prosperity made possible by America’s leadership and partnership with our allies.
To sustain this security and prosperity in the 21st century, the United States is strengthening its economic, diplomatic, cultural, and security ties with countries throughout Asia. The Department of Defense has an important role to play in this process – building on the tremendous legacy of service and sacrifice that we celebrate today.
We remain committed to helping ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. More than 28,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serve in Korea today. And just as veterans of the Korean War held the line from Pusan to Panmunjom, so too do these current-day defenders stand ready to help guard freedom – and to promote peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and throughout East Asia.
As we thank and honor Korean War veterans today, ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to present to you America’s Commander-in-Chief, a man deeply committed to keeping faith with our veterans and their servicemembers and their families, and the security of our country, and the strength of our alliances and partnerships.
Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome the President of the United States, Barack Obama.