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Memorial Day Observance

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Monday, May 27, 2013

Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, Secretary Shinseki, General Dempsey, fellow veterans, service members, and distinguished guests, Lilibet and I are greatly honored to be here with all of you today as we observe Memorial Day.

Together, we gather to remember America's sons and daughters who sacrificed everything in the defense of our nation.  For generations, Americans have set aside this day to honor those who have fought and died to keep our nation safe.  A Civil War veteran, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "Every year in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life, there comes a pause and, through the silence, we hear the lonely pipe of death."

Every Memorial Day, America is reminded of these selfless individuals, America's quiet heroes.  We also think of America's new generation of defenders, protecting the nation's interests in every corner of the globe, preserving our freedoms and our way of life.  They work for a more peaceful and hopeful world.  As General Douglas MacArthur said, "The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

The memories of America's heroes laid to rest here at Arlington and at American cemeteries around the world are kept alive by families and communities across our great land.  This Memorial Day, we honor those families who our heroes left behind.  We honor them in appreciation for the sacrifices they have endured.  We also honor the perseverance and the resilience of our military families today, for they are dealing with all of the challenges of life. America thanks you.

All of us in positions of trust and responsibility must always make decisions that are worthy of the sacrifices of those who serve our country.  On this sacred day, as we recall the words of President Lincoln when he referred to the mystic bonds and chords of memory, we honor America's fallen patriots by striving to be worthy of their great sacrifices as we all work toward making a better future for all mankind.

It is now my honor to introduce someone who has shown unwavering commitment to our servicemen and women and their families and who leads our nation today with great strength and wisdom.  Ladies and gentlemen, help me welcome our commander-in-chief, the President of the United States of America.

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