Entries in Memorial Day (5)


Obama Honors Fallen Troops, Looks to the War's End on Memorial Day

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm's way and died for their fellow countrymen.

"America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war," Obama said.

The president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, a monument that commemorates soldiers killed in U.S. wars whose remains have never been identified.

As Obama marked the coming end of the conflict in Afghanistan, he reflected on the nearly 7,000 soldiers who have been killed since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Today the transition is underway in Afghanistan and our troops are coming home," Obama said. "Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and that's progress for which we are profoundly grateful."

"This time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan," he added.

Obama lamented that the costs of war fall too often on country's all-volunteer fighting force and the families these soldiers leave behind.

"This truth cannot be ignored, today most Americans are not directly touched by war," Obama noted. "For those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm's way, we know the consequences all too well."

"I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center], every time I grieve with a gold star family," he added.

This Memorial Day follows a week in which the president sought to usher in a new phase in the fight against terror as the decade-long conflicts in the Middle East comes to a close, and he prepares to cement his presidential legacy at the onset of his second term.

In a speech at the National Defense University on Thursday, Obama said that though the fight against terrorism must continue, the wars will come to an end.

"Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end," Obama said.

At Arlington today, Obama memorialized three soldiers who had recently died in the line of duty: Army Capt. Sara Knutson Cullen, a Black Hawk pilot, Staff Sgt. Francis G. "Frankie" Phillips IV, a combat medic, and Marine staff Sgt. Eric D. Christian.

He and first lady Michelle Obama visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery where Cullen and Phillips were laid to rest.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Recalls Vietnam Vets’ Treatment as ‘National Shame’

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In his second address this Memorial Day, President Obama paid specific tribute to those perished during the Vietnam War on the 50th anniversary of its beginning.  He recalled the sacrifice of the troops who served there and the unjust blame that was heaped on them upon their return.

“It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.  That’s why here today we resolve that it will not happen again,” Obama told vets and their families gathered at the Vietnam War Memorial on the national mall Monday.  “You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor.”

The 50th anniversary, Obama argued, is another chance to set the record straight and “tell your story as it should have been told all along.”

“That’s one more way we keep perfecting our union, setting the record straight.  And it starts today.  Because history will honor your service,” he said.  “And even though some Americans turned their back on you, you never turned your back on America.”

The president also said America must not forget about the 1,666 troops who are still missing from the Vietnam war nor the prisoners of war (POW) who returned home.

“Let it be said in those hell holes like Briarpatch and The Zoo and the Hanoi Hilton, our Vietnam POW’s didn’t simply endure, you wrote some of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history,” Obama said, referring to infamous prison camps set up by the North Vietnamese.

Obama admitted that there was still debate over when the actual war began.  While the U.S. had advisers there in the mid-1950s and major combat operations began in the mid-1960s, he told the story of one defining moment-one used as the peg for calling this the 50th anniversary.

“It was 1962.  It was January in Saigon.  Our Army pilots strapped on their helmets and boarded their helicopters.  They lifted off, raced over treetops carrying South Vietnamese troops.  It was a single raid against an enemy stronghold just a few miles into the jungle.  But it was one of America’s first major operations in that far away land,” the president said.

In all 58,282 were killed in Vietnam.  Their names are etched in the black granite wall that served as Obama’s back drop on Monday.

“It’s here we feel the depth of your sacrifice,” Obama said.  “We come to this wall -- to this sacred place -- to remember.  We can step towards its granite wall and reach out, touch a name.  Today is Memorial Day, when we recall all those who gave everything in the darkness of war so we could stand here in the glory of spring.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


In Memorial Day Tribute, Romney Warns of Threats Around the Globe

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- Delivering a Memorial Day tribute on Monday, Mitt Romney thanked the sacrifice of servicemen and women while warning of the grave dangers around the globe, remarking frankly that “the world is not safe” before ticking off a list of grave security issues around the globe.

“I wish I could tell you that the world is a safe place today,” said Romney, speaking before a crowd of nearly 5,000 which included servicemen and women in uniform.  “It’s not.  Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation.  As the national sponsor of terror around the world, the thought of missile material in the hands of Hezbollah or Hamas or other terrorists is simply unthinkable.  Pakistan is home to some 100 nuclear weapons.”

“China’s on the road to becoming a … military superpower,” Romney continued.  “Russia is rebuilding their military and is now led by a man who believes that the Soviet Union was a great, as opposed to evil, empire.  Chavez is campaigning for power throughout Latin America.  Mexico is under siege from the cartels and in the Middle East the Arab Spring has become an Arab Winter.”

Romney, who never served in the military and received a deferment because he was doing his Mormon missionary work overseas, did not explicitly mention his bid for presidency during his speech but did weave in one of the main pillars of his foreign policy: maintaining the strength of the U.S. military.

“We have two courses we can follow,” said Romney.  “One is to follow the pathway of Europe.  To shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs.  And they of course rely on the strength of America and they hope for the best.  Were we to follow that kind of course, there would be no one that could stand to protect us.”

“The other is to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world,” he said.  “We choose that course.  We choose that course for America not just so that we can win wars, but so we can prevent wars.  Because a strong America is the best deterrent to war that ever has been invented.”

Monday's event was held at the Veterans Memorial Day Center Museum in San Diego, where before speaking Romney and Sen. John McCain laid wreaths in honor of the day of remembrance.  McCain, who endorsed Romney’s candidacy in January, served in the Navy during the Vietnam war and was held as a prisoner of war. 

McCain delivered Romney’s introduction there, remarking that Romney is a “great friend, a great man, a great governor” and a man he believes is “fully qualified to be commander in chief.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama on Memorial Day Recalls the Fallen, Winding Down of Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- Under bright, hazy skies at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama spent his fourth Memorial Day as commander in chief honoring the hundreds of thousands of  soldiers who died serving their country, particularly in the Vietnam War, which began more than 50 years ago.

“From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call,” Obama told hundreds gathered in the humid, midday heat at the cemetery, which is across the Potomac River from the capital.

 “They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they’ll never forget. While their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together. Side by side, row by row.  Because each of them loved this country and everything it stands for more than life itself.”

Heeding to custom, Obama also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, pausing to reflect and pray as a lone bugler played taps.

Obama took pains to point out that “for the first time in nine years Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq.”

That declaration drew applause, as did his pronouncement that “we are winding down the war in Afghanistan and our troops will continue to come home.

“After a decade under the dark cloud of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon,” Obama said, pointing out that the nation needs to remember not only the fallen but their families too.

“As a country, all of us can and should ask ourselves how we can help you shoulder a burden that nobody should have to bear alone,” he said.

“Sending our troops into harm’s way is the most wrenching decision that I have to make,” Obama said. “I can promise you that I will never do so unless absolutely necessary, and that when we do we must give our troops a clear mission and full support of a grateful nation.”

The White House announced last week that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the National Park Service and the Department of Defense had launched a 13-year program to “to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced.”

It was 50 years ago in January that the U.S. began to provide helicopter support to the South Vietnamese. That action grew into a 13-year conflict that took more than 58,000 American lives.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will visit the Vietnam War Memorial later today to pay further tribute.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Honor Fallen at Vietnam Memorial

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As commander in chief, President Obama says he has no more solemn responsibility than acknowledging the loss of Americans in combat. His Memorial Day began with a private breakfast at the White House with “Gold Star” families who have lost loved ones. After the traditional wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama attends a special remembrance at the Vietnam Memorial – marking 50 years since the start of that conflict.

President Obama is the first president for whom Vietnam is history, not memory.  He is speaking at the iconic Vietnam Memorial wall,   black granite etched with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who lost their lives in the conflict.

In an opinion column published Monday in the military’s Stars and Stripes, the President reminds the nation that it was in January 50 years ago the first U.S. Army helicopters helped to ferry South Vietnamese troops out into the jungle near Saigon, ushering the U.S. into long years of combat in  Southeast Asia.  The President declares in Stars and Stripes that the U.S. will never stop searching for the 1,666 Americans still missing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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