Distinguished guests all – Marines! While it’s always a privilege to represent the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense, today it is also a singular and a special honor.
Almost seventy years ago, America’s leaders committed the nation to defending freedom abroad. In 1945, as a seven-year-old boy playing at a small grass square in Baltimore, workers put up a sign that read, “Francis Callahan Jr. Square”. My parents told me that night that the Callahan family lived right there on the square. Their son, Francis Callahan, Jr., a Marine, had been killed on Iwo Jima. The square was dedicated to him.
I learned early that war meant sacrifice – sacrifice for the individual, and sacrifice for the family.
This is a memorable day … a day that we salute the courage of Lima Company, 25th Marines, and commemorate 23 fallen heroes. It is also memorable, because today … here in Columbus … throughout Ohio … and throughout this great Nation … everyone in America awakened as free people. This was not by accident … not by chance … but rather earned for us by great Americans who have stepped forward to protect our freedoms and liberties at time of threat to our nation.
The Marines of Lima Company followed in the footsteps of brave Americans who served before them … like Francis Callahan … to guarantee these freedoms for over 230 years. All Americans owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those who have sacrificed and especially to the families who have lost loved ones.
President Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.” Just as the “Greatest Generation” answered the call almost 70 years ago and changed the course of history, today’s “Greatest Generation”, Lima Company, has preserved for us this marvelous and precious gift.
In this time of great threat to America, the U.S. military is the thin line, but thick wall, that separates the lives we live every day in freedom from a life of chaos and terror. It is most fitting that we honor the fallen heroes of Lima Company and their families by this dedication today.
In honoring them, let us all “never forget” their sacrifices. Let us all recommit ourselves to the preservation of freedom for future generations … so those generations will wake each morning as free Americans.
Lima Company, and especially those honored today and their families, knows that the American people are grateful for your sacrifice, your tireless service, your dedication – and especially for your gift of freedom.
God bless each of you, and God bless America. Semper Fidelis.