President Biden and Secretary Austin Honor Fallen Service Members

President Joe Biden lays a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in honor of U.S. military members who have died in service to the country. As part of the Memorial Day observance, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts a program in the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater. May 29, 2023.


Thank you, please. That. Oh, right. Oh, like, oh, pray that. Oh. Oh, Right. Oh, the wreath ceremony is now complete. The Memorial Day observance will begin momentarily. Please move to your seats. Yeah, I what, uh, take charge of your units first home?

What, what, what?

Oh, yes, course. Ok. Yeah. Oh. Oh, hi. They’re force too. Oh. Or Coast Guard for two. Oh, now, thanks. No, for word by the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, distinguished guests, chaplain, Colonel James Foster Command, chaplain, joint task force, National capital region and the United States Army military district of Washington. I invite you to bow your heads with humble and grateful hearts. As I now pray on this memorial day, I lift my voice and thanks to the Almighty and amazing God. I thank you for the sacrifices made for the blood that was shed for the hearts that were broken, for our freedoms, for our salvation, for the lives we enjoy today. And tomorrow, God death is so very real and the grave is undeniable, but it is not the end. We continue to stand and we continue to unite together in strength and have a hope in the victories to come in. My feeble attempt to do so. Lord, along with all those around this nation, I call upon you to help us as a people to uphold the ideals of this great nation that we might stand, resolute with our forefathers and declare with confidence. These same words inscribed on the marble above that those who died who lie in the hallowed grounds around us and around the globe whom we honor today did not give their lives in vain. We honor them Lord with our devoted lives. Grant us your strength to embolden the weak. Give courage to do what is right and give us a unity of spirit to bind us together. God stir us awaken us, help us to walk by faith and give you glory in your holy name. I pray amen. Please remain standing for the United States Navy band and sea chanters, chorus in singing our national anthem. Aye. Please be seated. Thank you. This distinguished guests, General Mark Milley, Mr. President, Doctor Biden, madam, vice President, Mr. Aff Secretary Austin, fellow joint chiefs of staff and spouses, distinguished guests, fellow Americans and most importantly gold star families. Welcome to all. Today, we join in remembrance of the 155th observance of memorial day. It is a day of profound significance in the legacy of our nation. On this day, we remember the over one million Americans who took their last breath on the bedrock of liberty, supporting the eternal cause of freedom. Their unwavering commitment, their dedication to freedom, their echoes to the ages reminding us of our sacred duty to remember. And behind every one of these men and women is a family, a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a brother or a sister, son, her daughter for these families every day is Memorial Day. And they each carry on the dreams that are fallen could never fully realize this land where we stand today once housed three Fort Sentinels which overlooked and defended Washington DC. But now it serves a purpose. It is the final resting place of our nation’s bravest, a quiet testament to their sacrifice. We gather on these sacred grounds where over 400,000 are buried here at Arlington National cemeteries, 85 cemeteries, 85 sections. They tell the story of our nation. A narrative not written in ink but written in valor and sacrifice. This cemetery paints the picture of the cost required for all of us to remain free. Some here are buried amongst their family and legacies which transcend generations. Others are best friends who fought together, died together and now lay an eternal rest together, their bonds forged in battle unbroken even by death. Yet our nation’s fallen are not only represented on these hallowed grounds. They are represented on every piece of land where American blood has been spilled in the service of our country, sailors lie forever entombed in a twisted hall of the US S Arizona resting in the seabed at Pearl Harbor and the white headstones of 9387 Americans enshrined outside Saint Laurent. So in France, overlooking the sands of Omaha Beach, as well as the more than 81,500 Americans who still remain missing. Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who have never returned home, the search for these missing will continue until they are all brought home. It is our final solemn promise to these heroes, their families and to our nation. Each of these Americans epitomize our tradition of honor the ethos which defines our armed forces and defines our nation individually. They represent the single life cut short life events never accomplished. We feel their absence in the very depths of our hearts, but together they represent the indomitable spirit of the American military. They are a permanent reminder that freedom is a gift to us all, a gift paid for by those who gave in the words of Lincoln, the last full measure of devotion. And today, today we honor them, we remember them and today we say their names and in doing so, we ensure their sacrifice will never be forgotten. We will forever walk among these giants as we continue to uphold the cause for which they died, the cause of America which will endure through all challenges. In fact, there, the greatest honor that we can bestow upon those who have fallen the way to remember them. The best is to ensure that this idea of freedom, that the Constitution of the United States of America. The idea that is America will continue for our posterity and shall not perish from this earth. Thank you, distinguished guests, the United States Navy band and the Sea chanters chorus will perform. This land is your land. As I went, I saw I so this it was made for you. Yes. Nice culture. Yeah. Yeah. To the swirling signs off tied in um voice was so when the sun field to your plan?

Yeah, they stand. It’s not listen to the country, right?

Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Distinguished guests, the honorable Lloyd Austin. Well, let’s give the band and the chorus. Another round of applause. That was absolutely well, good morning, President Biden. Doctor Biden, Vice President Harris Mr. Imhoff, distinguished guest. I am absolutely honored to be here with you this morning and thank you General Milley for your leadership to our gold star families and to all who remember a fallen American hero today. I know that each memorial day brings new waves of both pride and pain and on behalf of the Department of Defense, please accept our country’s deepest gratitude for all that you have given and our deepest sympathies for all that you have lost. We pledge again today to ensure that you and your families have the support that you need and deserve. You will always be a part of our military family and we hold in our hearts. All those who fail to defend the country that they love. Each of them has a story and one of the stories of the graves here at Arlington belongs to chaplain Charles Waters. He was a Catholic priest who signed up to serve during the Vietnam War and to support his teammates in body and soul. And after a yearlong deployment, he volunteered to extend his tour for another six months. In one November day in 1967 his battalion hit fierce fighting. Chaplain, waters ran unarmed into the battle, exposed to mortar fire, bullets and automatic weapons. He helped get wounded soldiers to safety and he gave last rights to the foreign. At one point, he saw a US paratrooper in shock in the and in the line of enemy fire. Chaplain waters hoisted the paratrooper on his shoulders and carried him to safety. Tragically later that day, chaplain Waters was killed and for his extraordinary heroism, this paratrooper patriot and priest who volunteered twice wants to serve and wants to extend his tour was posthumously awarded the medal of honor. This year our country celebrates the 50th anniversary of our all-volunteer force in the life of Charles Walters. Charles Waters offered a preview of the vigor and the valor of the American warriors who have chosen to step up and serve from 1973 until this day, our all-volunteer force has blended military power with moral power and combine the force of American arms with the strength of people who freely choose to stand guard over our democracy. In 1970 the Gates Commission recommended eliminating conscription and its formal report predicted that an all-volunteer force will strengthen our freedoms and our armed forces. And it did every time a qualified American stands up and raises their hand and serves with honor from any corner of the country, from any background, color or creed. This exceptional nation becomes even safer and stronger. Every fallen hero has a story. It is our duty to remember those we have lost. It is our honor to stand with their families and it is our sacred obligation to remember all that you have given. So let us strive to honor the memory of our fallen by writing the next chapters in American America’s story of service. Let us stand with all who pledge their lives to defend human freedom and let us come together as one nation to strengthen our democracy. Ladies and gentlemen, our commander in chief has long been a champion of our men and women in uniform and other military families who serve right alongside them. And on this day of sorrow and service, it is my absolute honor to introduce the president of the United States. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, please. 155 years ago, retired Union General James Garfield spoke here at Arlington marking our nation’s first memorial day, standing amid rows and rows of marble stones, many of his own fallen soldiers among them. He asked, what brought these men here?

What high motive led them to welcome death?

And he answered his own question, our nation’s life, my fellow Americans. You vice President, Harris, second gentleman and secretary, Austin, Secretary McDonough, Secretary General Milley, and uh most importantly, veterans, servicemen and women and their survivors. Today, we once again gather in this sacred place at this solemn hour to honor fallen heroes to once again stand amid the rows and rows of marble stones and bear witness to the brave women and men who served and sacrificed for our freedom and for our future, those who died. So our nation might live every year as a nation. We undertake this right of remembrance. We must never forget the price that was paid to protect our democracy. Must never forget the lives. These flags, flowers and marble markers represent a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a sister, a spouse, a friend and America. Every year we remember and every year it never gets easier to all those here and across the nation who are grieving the loss of a loved one who wore the uniform, our gold star families, for all those with loved ones still missing and unaccounted for. I know how painful it can be, how it can reopen that rip open that black hole in the center of your chest. You feel like you’re just sinking into bringing you back to that, that exact moment you heard that knock on the door where the telephone ring, the exact moment you had to tell your Children and mom or dad would not be coming home. The hurt is still real. It’s still raw. Tomorrow marks eight years since we lost our son. Be our loss are not the same. He didn’t perish in the battlefield was cancer that stole him from us. A year after being deployed as a major in the United States Army National Guard in Iraq as it is for so many of you, the pain of the loss is with us every day but particularly sharp on Memorial Day, still clear. Tomorrow’s anniversary. But so is the pride Jill and I feel this service is if I can still hear him saying, dad, it’s my duty, dad. It’s my duty, duty. That was the code my son lived by and all those you lost live by. It’s the creed and millions of service members have followed from the fields of York Town to the shores of Normandy to the rice patties of, to the valleys of Kandahar in the mountains of Sinjar and beyond many of whom never returned home throughout history. These women and men laid down their lives, not for a place or a person or a president, but for an idea. Unlike any other idea in all of human history. The idea, the idea of the United States of America. This sanctuary honors that sacrifice and tells their stories. And in turn, it tells our story, the American story, the story of the patron who died to deliver a nation where everyone is entitled to certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. The story of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who shed their blood to make these words real story of the brave Americans who fought the forces of fascism and die for preservation of democracy. As we’re reminded by the hundreds of grades here in section 60 of Arlington and across our nation. The story of the women and men who sacrificed everything to keep democracy safe and secure. During the last two decades, each of them, each of them a link in a chain of honor that stretches back to our founding fathers in those days, unb breaking unbending, not just in their duty and devotion, but something even deeper and their faith in us. For faith in us that we will be worthy of their sacrifice. Our service members have always embodied the highest expectations of our democracy. They’ve always held faith in our country and all that. We could be a citadel of liberty, a beacon of freedom for our democracy is our strength, the wellspring of possibilities and the source of endless, endless renewal. It’s how we’ve been able to constantly change and adapt through the centuries. It’s why we’ve always emerged from every challenge we face stronger, then we entered it. It’s how we come together has one nation united and why there’s nothing we can’t do in America when we do it together. It’s the truth. We celebrate this year’s remark, we mark 75 years of a desegregated military, 75 years of women’s full integration. 50 years, all voluntary force throughout the annals of history. Our troops have fought for our democracy and if necessary died for it today, their service and sacrifice and that of their families that goes far beyond those silent stones out there. We’ve seen the strength of our NATO alliance built from the bars that we forever forged in the fires of two world wars. We say it, the troops still standing sentinel on the Korean Peninsula, preserving peace side by side with their allies. We’ve seen in every base, every barrack, every vessel around the globe where our military proudly serves and stands as a force for good in the world. And just as they’ve kept the ultimate faith to our country, to our democracy, we must keep the ultimate faith to them as a nation. And people have heard me say this for a long time. As a nation, we have many obligations, but I believe in every fiber on my beam. We have only one truly sacred obligation to prepare those we send into harm’s way and care for them. And their families when they come home and when they don’t, it’s a sacred obligation, not based on part of your politics, but on a promise, a promise to unite all of us. There’s nothing more important, nothing more sacred, nothing more American and together over the last 2.5 years, we’ve worked to make good on that promise. Passing more than 25 bipartisan laws to support our service members for families, caregivers and survivors. That includes the Pact Act. Most significant law in our nation’s history. Tell millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances and burn pits during their military service pitch the size of football fields that incinerated the waste of war such as tires, chemicals, jet fuel and so much more to many of our nation’s warriors that have served only to return home and suffer from the permanent effects of this poison of smoke. Too many have died. Excuse the personal reference like my son be like sergeant first class Heath Robinson, for whom the actor’s name last year after I signed the Pact Act, I handed the pen to his daughter real she and her grandmother are with us today after I handed her the pen. This beautiful little girl is sitting over there. Thank you Raymond baby. We lost half of her world. Her whole world held a pen in her hand and looked at me and said, thank you for my daddy. Thank you for my dad. God. Love you, honey. But I don’t think she was just thanking me. She’s thanking all of us, everyone who fought so hard who came together to keep our promise to our veterans to keep the faith of our heroes. On this day, we come together again to reflect, to remember. But above all, to recommit to the future. Our fallen heroes fought for that generation of service members who died for a future, grounded in freedom, democracy, equality, tolerance, opportunity, and yes, justice. You use those words all the time. What we’ve seen of late here and around the world that they have to continually be fought for, not just for some but for all. This is more important than just our system of government. It’s the very soul of America, a soul that was forged by our nation’s first patriots, a soul that triumphed over our trials and testing less then a century later, a soul that endured because of the sacrifice of generations and generations of a service members ever since together, we’re not just the fortunate inheritors of their legacy. We must be the keeper of their mission, the bearers of the flame of freedom. It kept burning bright for nearly 247 years. That that’s the truest memorial to their lives. Our actions every day to ensure that our democracy endures. Our constitution endures and the soul of our nation. Our decency endures ladies and gentlemen, 100 and 55 years ago, our ancestors stood here and asked themselves what brought our heroes to this hallowed ground?

What high motive led these brave souls as General Garfield said to welcome death. Today, we must ask ourselves, what can we do?

What must we do to pull the vision for which they lived in which they died today?

It’s on all of us, all of us to ensure that sacrifice was not in vain to keep working toward a more perfect union. One were all women and all men are created equal. We’re the only nation in the world built on an idea. Every other nation is formed based on things like geography, ethnicity, religion. We’re the only nation in the world built on an idea that we are all created equal. We haven’t always lived up to it, but we’ve never walked away from it. And today standing together to honor those Americans who dared all and gave all for our nation. We can say clearly, we never will. God bless you all those who gave their lives. So our nation might live. God bless their families and may God protect our troops today and always thank you distinguished guests. Please stand for the playing of taps and the benediction. Please receive this closing prayer. God, those were such solemn tones that mean so much to us as a nation. I pray that you grant us the grace to never forget and to lead lives worthy of the price paid on our behalf. By those who have gone on before and those who continue to serve God with all humility. I thank you for your goodness to this nation, to our service members and their families. As our president has stated, God, we have a soul and I pray that you would help us to align our faith correctly. And God preserve the soul of this nation, preserve the souls of those that serve with great expectation. I ask you to protect them now, wherever they may be, for some are in harm’s way this day and many are separated from the ones they love. Bless our government, its leaders and provide Godly counsel and wisdom to guide us in your will. God, please do bless America, this nation that we love so much. It’s in your holy name. I pray amen. Please remain standing for the singing of God bless America performed by the United States Navy band and C Chanters chorus and it’s hard on the bar. So, and the time on the ball, distinguished guests, please remain in place as the official party departs and the colors are retired.

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