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Memorial Ceremony in Honor of Slain Sailors of the USS Cole
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, Wednesday, October 18, 2000

President Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, Chelsea [Clinton], Chairman [Hugh] Shelton [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] and Carolyn [Shelton], Janet [Cohen], our Navy leadership, and, most importantly, the families and the friends of the brave sailors that we honor today.

It has been said already, but today is a moment of profound grief and melancholy, one in which we publicly express our sadness, our love, our loss, and our resolve.

It’s impossible for us to cauterize the wound that’s been inflicted upon the soul of the families and upon this country. And at these times, words always seem too shallow to contain the depth of our sorrow, too thin to hold the pain of our loss, and too measured to reflect the rage in our hearts. They can only hope to speak to our love for those who loved life, who took pride in the Navy, who found joy and meaning in their service to our country, and who wore their patriotism with pride and with a humility born in the wellspring of hope for a better future, for themselves and their families and for mankind itself.

Death snatched them away in one violent, unsuspecting moment, while they were making sure that the American people and our friends moved easily in a dangerous world.

Each day we’re able to sleep safely under this blanket of freedom because those who wear our nation’s uniform are prepared to surrender life itself in the defense of liberty. And everyone here at home and abroad, all who cherish and rejoice in the freedoms that we enjoy, should pause and say a prayer for the sons and daughters that we’ve lost and those who are missing and those who are wounded -- for their unbridled courage, their unbounded hope, for their immeasurable sacrifice, and for that of those who face danger every day with pride and devotion to duty.

No one, no one should ever pass an American in uniform without saying, "Thank you, we’re grateful"—always mindful that they are prepared to risk all of their dreams so that all of us can reach and realize ours.

There was a Civil War hero who said there’s no guarantee of safety in peace, and there is no inevitability of death in war. But we are certain of this much: that those men and women who were taken from us, were taken in the very flower of their youth in an act of pure evil. And we are certain of one thing more: to those who organized and orchestrated this barbarous act, you are on notice that our search for you will be relentless and that America will not rest until we find you and the long arm of justice reaches out – however long, however far – and makes you pay for this crime.

Senator [Edward] Kennedy, when President Kennedy’s son, John, was christened, I remember reading that an ambassador from Ireland presented him with an engraved cup and a poem that was in truth a prayer: "And when the storms break for him, may the trees shake for him their blossoms down. And in the night that he is troubled, may a friend wake for him, so that his time be doubled. And in the end of all loving and love, may the Man above give him a crown."

To those families, those who are here today—those who have been taken from us, they live on. They live in our hearts; they live in our souls; they live in eternity itself. And when we’re all joined together with them, as one day we must, we know they’ll be wearing not a sailor’s cap, but a shining crown.