Thank you, General Pace … Dis
Thank you, Colonel [Ed] McMahon [USMC, Ret.] and everyone who has helped organize this magnificent event.
Thank you, Governor [Robert] Rider [Chairman, Board of Governors, U.S. Postal Service], for giving us this truly beautiful commemorative stamp.
Thank you, General [Peter] Pace [Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff], for those inspiring words and for the inspiring leadership you give to the men and women of the Armed Forces today.
And most of all, thank you to our distinguished guests and to the veterans of the Korean War, for your heroism and your sacrifice and for joining us today for this commemoration.
Fifty years ago at this very hour -- on the 27th of July, 1953 -- the ceasefire took effect in Korea. After three years, one month, and two days of war, after tens of thousands of American and Allied casualties, after incredible acts of heroism, courage, and sacrifice, the guns at last fell silent.
Recalling that historic occasion, it is a great privilege to be here with all of you this morning in this very special place.
Visitors to the Korean War Memorial often come away with a sense of what it was like during the war. But I am sure that those of you who served in Korea during the bitter winters would be quick to explain that it was never as warm as Washington in July! But no matter the season, the memorial is an enduring reminder for posterity.
As you know, no treaty ever put a formal end to the war. And when all was said and done, the international boundaries were back where they had been when the Communists invaded. As a result, some have concluded – erroneously -- that the Korean War was a stalemate.
To the contrary, because we took a determined stand, because our men and women fought and sacrificed, the people of South Korea have had half a century of peace, 50 years to build a dynamic democracy and a thriving economy. That is no stalemate. Because thousands of brave men and women from 22 nations put their lives on the line, the face of Asia was changed dramatically for the better.
I am so pleased to see those countries represented here today. Thanks to our combined action in Korea, the stage was set for the eventual victory in the larger Cold War. It took decades, but freedom triumphed throughout most of the Communist world. And one day, freedom will come to the people of North Korea as well. [Applause]
Last month, I paid a brief visit to South Korea, and I was in Seoul, which today is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. I was fortunate to visit our soldiers in the Demilitarized Zone, where they stand watch with our allies from the Republic of Korea, ensuring the peace for nearly 50 million people.
When you visit those places, you can’t help but appreciate the magnitude of what you and your comrades accomplished during the Korean War. But as President Bush has observed, the most dramatic demonstration comes from outer space, especially at night. For thousands of miles above the earth you can still see the lights of Seoul, a dazzling metropolis of freedom and prosperity and energy.
Just 30 miles to the north, it’s completely the opposite -- not light, but darkness -- which is an appropriate symbol for a land that has no freedom and still little hope, a place where tyrants spend the nation’s meager resources on nuclear weapons, while its people starve.
Until things change in North Korea, we must guard against renewed aggression. But meanwhile, we will work with the North Koreans to bring home our missing.
We recently concluded negotiations that will result in two joint recovery operations this year. In November, we will meet with them to form plans for recovery operations in 2004. This is vital, because the Korean War will not really end for us until every American is brought home or accounted for. [Applause]
We owe them that. We owe it to their families. We owe it to the brave men and women who go into combat for us today. And we will keep our promise.
Their heroism was immortalized in names like the Chosin Reservoir, Inchon, Pusan, Bloody Ridge, MIG Alley, and Porkchop Hill. Those are names that will live in history. And their heroes will be remembered in history.
But I want you to know that that heroism has not gone out of style. Some of you probably have sons or daughters – or maybe grandchildren – serving today in our Armed Forces. In fact, if you do have a relative or family friend serving in the military today, would you stand for a moment please? [Applause]
That’s impressive. And thank you for your continuing service, because the families also serve.
I don’t have to tell you that the young people in the Service today have the same love of country, the same dedication, the same devotion to duty, and the same compassion that you showed five decades ago in Korea.
If you think Washington summers are hot, they’re nothing compared to what it is like when the thermometer stays for 24 hours above 120 degrees.
Yet, like those who served before them in Korea, our young people today know that they are working to defeat a great evil and to help a grateful people take their rightful place among the free nations of the world.
The battle to win the peace in Iraq today is the central battlefront in the war on terror, and you should be proud of what they are doing. I know I am. I was in Iraq last week. The troops are inspirational for their courage, their humanity, their sheer ingenuity. They make you proud that they are Americans.
I firmly believe … [Applause] … I firmly believe that 50 or even 100 years from now, when historians sit down to tell the story of our time, they will note that in Korea and in Iraq and in so many other places around the globe the performance of American troops showed the world what Americans are made of. And they will also note that the whole world, not just our country, was made better, and that the American people were made safer by their courage, by their commitment, and by their sacrifice.
So may God bless and keep all of the men and women who have worn the uniform and wear the uniform of the United States. May God bless the peoples of Korea and America. May God bless this great land, the home of the brave and the land of the free.
Thank you. [Applause]