Defense Leaders Call for Communities to Help Families, Vets
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 28, 2012 Americans must remember the sacrifices made on their behalf and reinforce those memories with action, Defense Department leaders said at the Memorial Day observance here today.
Left to right: Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and President Barack Obama, render honors during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 28, 2012. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both called for Americans to support veterans, especially those from the past 10 years of war and help the families of those who paid the ultimate cost of those wars.
“Arlington and all the men and women who rest here is a constant reminder that freedom is not free,” Panetta said during the ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheatre. “Today we join all Americas in coming together to pay tribute to all those brave Americans who have fought and died for our country.”
Dempsey said that the Memorial Day ceremonies across America are manifestations of “the sacred bonds of trust between the military family and our larger American family. But what really counts is how we nurture that bond with those still here, and how we turn that memory into action.”
Panetta noted that this is the 10th Memorial Day in a row in which Americans still are at war. “All of the millions of brave patriots who have stepped forward to serve this nation in time of war deserve our gratitude, our respect and our enduring support because they have kept our nation safe,” he said.
Panetta assured the families that their loved ones will never be forgotten. “We must be resolved to do all we can for these families,” he said. “It takes all of us – every citizen, every community, every business – to care for those families.”
Dempsey seconded that idea, saying the nation must continue to stand behind the families every day.
“Supporting them in the ways they need it most – particularly as they transition back into their home communities – shows that we do not just think of them … but that we really do remember,” the chairman said.
That role is most important because while every federal department is committed to making education, medical care and employment opportunities accessible to the military family, it is the neighbors and communities that must do the heavy lifting.
“The VA can’t drop the kids off at soccer, and the DOD can’t help you study for your final college exam,” Dempsey said. “Nobody looks out for you like friends, your neighbors or your family.”
The general noted that Memorial Day started after the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day. It was a day when families went to graves and placed flowers and other tributes among the fallen, and was a locally driven observance.
“So it starts with us,” he said. “Preserving the bonds of trust is something we have to work at and something we’re going to have to keep delivering. And we will because the memory is ours -- all of ours.”