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Remarks on Memorial Day

Mr. President, Chairman Dunford, warriors and veterans, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for joining us in this solemn remembrance.

In each one of the more than 400,000 markers here at Arlington we find a dignified memorial to a life dedicated to the noblest of callings – to protect our people, uphold humankind’s highest values, and make a better world for our children.

They say security is like oxygen: if you have it, you don’t think about it. But if you don’t have it that’s all you can think of. The patriots remembered today across the country provided that security. And so today do the millions of services members -- sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen; active duty and reserves – provide that security. They’re part of a long heritage: patriots who fought in places like Lexington and Concord; Gettysburg and Midway; Chosin and Khe Sahn; and more recently, at Fallujah and Helmand.

On Memorial Day, we especially remember those who gave their lives in this noblest of callings. To our Gold Star Families – you honor us with your presence. We know we lack the words to do justice to what you feel on this day. We can never fully know. But we do know what your sacrifice means to us, to this nation, and to a world that still depends so much on American men and women in uniform for its security.

For all, Memorial Day in America is a line across the times – a line that connects yesterday with today and tomorrow.

That we’re here today, and that remembrances like this are underway across this shining land, isn’t lost on the kids who serve today. I hear this all the time. They know what it means that they too are doing the noblest of things, providing security so that Americans can get up in the morning, dress their kids, kiss em’ off to school, go to work, dream their dreams, live lives that are full. They know it means that for all its variety, America is one in support for them. And they know that not one of them – not one, ever – will be left behind, that every effort will be made, to bring them home, no matter how long it takes. They can see that too, today, on Memorial Day, that the line comes to them.

Now those who serve today do so in a world that has its challenges and foes for America, which our strength will counter and defeat. Of that we can be certain. But it’s also a world of bright opportunities, that we’ll grab hold of for them and their children.

We can be certain of our strength, of our success, and of our hope because our troops today make up the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

A force of this caliber demands great leaders, and there’s no doubt they have one in the Commander-in-Chief. I see firsthand how clearly he understands the challenges we face and the obligations we must meet to keep our nation safe and make a better world. Above all, I witness the unending concern he has for our men and women in uniform and their families – their safety, their dignity, their welfare, and the boundless care with which he makes decisions that put them in harm’s way. For this, and for much more, I am tremendously proud to serve as his Secretary of Defense.

Please welcome the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama: