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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery. (As Delivered)

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Vice President Harris, Mr. Emhoff, fellow members of the cabinet, General Milley and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, good afternoon. 

To our distinguished guests, our service members, and my fellow veterans: thank you for letting us share this day with you.

And to the Gold Star and surviving families here: you honor us with your presence.

I know that when you look across this hallowed ground, you ache for those you have lost. 

Your devotion to your loved ones has never faltered. 

And in turn, America owes all of you support that does not waver. 

We renew that dedication every Memorial Day. 

And as we do, we also renew our faith in our democracy… and the values of self-government that bind us together as Americans. 

We understand the stakes.  

In the 21st century, the security of the world hinges again on the survival and success of the American experiment. 

And in turn, that great experiment relies on the American patriots who volunteer to keep their fellow citizens safe and their nation secure. And these patriots carry the moral force that can be wielded only by free people defending their inalienable rights and the rule of law. 

Today, on the battlefields of Ukraine, the world again sees the power of democratic citizens and soldiers to defy tyranny, cruelty, and oppression. 

Their freedom is under attack. 

And so is the international order rooted in the rules that we have built since World War II, at such terrible cost. 

We understand the challenge, and we’re determined to meet it.

As the President says, “In the battle between democracy and autocracies, democracies are rising to the moment.”
 
We draw inspiration from the unity of our allies and partners. And we draw strength from the men and women of the United States military. 

In the year since we last gathered on this solemn day, America’s longest war has come to a close. And today, we remember the 2,461 American service members and personnel who fell in Afghanistan. 

And we remember all those who still carry the wounds of that war, to body and to soul. 

We hold them in our hearts, alongside the patriots across generations who gave their lives to defend us all.

The heroes here are joined together—united not just by their final resting place but by their devotion to the values that gave life to our democracy.

And they came from every state, from every territory, from every background and from every creed. 

But they were all patriots who loved their country… who marched to defend our democracy… and who fought to forge a more perfect union. 

Their sacrifice demands more than even our deepest gratitude.

In the words of President Kennedy, who rests nearby, quote “We must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words  but to live by them.”

So as we honor our fallen today, let us live by their dedication to democracy, to liberty, and to the Constitution.

When choosing between what is easy and what is right, let us live by the example of our fallen warriors.

And when the values that we hold dear are put to the test, let us live by the ideals that they gave their lives to defend.

Today, we hold the fallen in our prayers. And every day, we strive to make them proud.

Thank you again for being here today.

And ladies and gentlemen, our Commander-in-Chief has been a staunch and steadfast champion of our men and women in uniform, and I know personally he values their sacrifice, their commitment, and how devoted he is to our men and women in uniform and to the families who serve alongside them. 

He has spent a lifetime in public service to advance the democratic ideals for which so many have given so much. 

It is my honor to introduce the President of the United States.