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Memorial Day Ceremony
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Arlington National Cemetary, Arlington, VA, Monday, May 30, 2005

Thank you very much.

Mr. President, my friend General Dick Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, thank you so much for your able service to our country.

Members of the Joint Chiefs and service secretaries, senior enlisted personnel, men and women in uniform, and Mrs. Bush, you represent our country so well -- you make us proud to be Americans.

Members of the United States Senate and members of the United States House of Representatives, men and women in uniform, distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen.

We gather today not far from the first battlefield of the Civil War.

It was noted that the fighting was so close to Washington that President Abraham Lincoln could see the smoke of the cannons rising from the Battle of Bull Run.

From those days of bitter conflict, Americans forged a nation dedicated to the ideals of liberty and equality for all.

And through the generations that followed, tested in two World Wars and in that epic struggle against Communism, it is those ideals that have made our country the target of tyrants.  America's promise of freedom and opportunity was -- and remains -- a jarring rebuke to extremists that seek to subjugate the many to the few.

It was not long ago that our country suffered the first casualties of another war declared on us by enemies of freedom.  And as before, another President could see smoke rising from a different kind of battlefield -- the Pentagon in flames.

Our President, like his predecessors, understood that we had to fight for freedom to save it, and that liberty's survival here depends on its advance abroad.

On his orders, the outstanding men and women wearing our country's uniform -- volunteers all -- have risked their lives to take the fight to the extremists who threaten our people.

Some have fallen in battle.  To their families -- there are no sufficient words of comfort.  The emptiness will linger, and it's hard.  But we can be grateful for the time we had with them.  We can celebrate who they were and how they lived their lives, and remember amid the sorrow that one day turns to solace and strength -- that those lives were lost in a struggle, dedicated to the eternal truth of freedom and the human spirit.  Our country was founded on that spirit, and Americans have nurtured it through every war in every era.

Just before the Battle of Bull Run, a soldier named Sullivan Ballou wrote to his wife.  He said:

"I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I'm engaged.  I know how strongly American civilization now leans upon our triumph, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of America's Revolution."

Sullivan Ballou would die only days later in the Battle of Bull Run just 30 miles from here.

And today, as we look out upon this garden of moving, white headstones that honor the heroes of our heritage, we know his sacrifice was not in vain.  Nor have been the sacrifices of those we honor today in prayer and silently in our hearts.

  • May the Lord be with those who mourn;
  • With the veterans, the troops in battle, and their families;
  • And with our commander in chief, who amid the smoke of a great conflict, promised to meet violence with patient justice, foresaw the victories to come.

And who -- like that president before him -- offered the hope of “a new birth of freedom” not just for our nation, but for all who seek freedom.

It is an honor to introduce our commander in chief, the president of the United States of America.