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Memorial Service for Members of the Virginia Air National Guard
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Rock Church, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Saturday, March 10, 2001

Distinguished guests and, most importantly, the friends and family of the brave souls we mourn today. Our task today is simple and painful--to remember and pay tribute to our fellow countrymen who perished while doing their duty for America, to express our gratitude for their service and sacrifice, and to share the deep sense of loss of their families and friends.

The story of these brave Americans has been reported across the entire nation. Their mission had been accomplished. They were on their way home. They were looking forward to joining their family and friends, who are here with us today. Instead, we are here grappling with the tragedy that cut short their lives and snatched them so suddenly and so finally from us.

No words are adequate to ease the pain of those of you who loved them and knew them best. But we join you in mourning the loss of some of our nation's finest. Today we remember them as they were--young at heart and full of enthusiasm for life. We remember the example of their lives of service, lives lived in accordance with the words of scripture: "You have been told, O Man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you; only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God."

The mission of these men and their comrades was to do right and to share goodness. Ten years ago, I had a chance to see for myself the full meaning and lasting value of their work. During an earlier tour in the Defense Department, I traveled to Saudi Arabia with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney--now our Vice President--to see the preparations that would lead to Desert Storm.

I still remember the truly extraordinary feats of the Red Horse engineers. In just a few months, they had transformed an empty desert into a vast base structure--a living, breathing complex, home to the people and planes of an entire expeditionary force--a force that went on to win one of the most remarkable victories in America's proud military history.

From the Middle East ten years ago to Southeast Europe today, the Red Horse engineers have been critical for the American military deployments that have strengthened the foundations of peace around the world. These men did more than build barracks and runways. With their hearts and their hands, your husbands, your fathers, your brothers and your sons built a safer world. And with their minds they accepted the risks of service. Their sudden loss reminds us that, in peace or in war, those who work to keep us safe assume risks that many of us will never know. But these brave Americans faced those risks because they wanted to serve. Their spirit of willing service and personal sacrifice anchored their lives in their communities as well. They wanted to help others, not just themselves. And help others they did.

A wise sage once said that those who have passed away still live among us "in the good deeds they have done and in the hearts of those who cherish their memories." The brave men whom we honor today will long live on in the hearts of their families and their many friends who are with us today, and their good deeds will live on beyond all of us.

On behalf of their commander in chief, President George W. Bush, on behalf of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and on behalf of all those serve our nation's defense, we say good-bye to these brave comrades. In our hearts they will live forever. God bless them, God bless the loved ones they left behind, and God bless this wonderful country that they served so well.