the Brave and Fallen Defenders of Freedom
Arlington National Cemetery
May 26, 2003
11:33 A.M. EDT
Thank you all very much for the warm welcome. Mr. Secretary, thank you for
your leadership. Secretary Principi, members of the United States Congress,
General Myers, members of the Joint Chiefs, General Jackson and Colonel Ray
and Colonel Steedley, veterans, honored guests and my fellow Americans, we
come to this Memorial Day with deep awareness of recent loss and recent courage.
Beyond the Tomb of the Unknowns, in Section 60 of Arlington Cemetery, we
have laid to rest Americans who fell in the battle of Iraq. One of the funerals
was for Marine Second Lieutenant Frederick Pokorney Junior, of Jacksonville,
North Carolina. His wife, Carolyn, received a folded flag. His two year old
daughter, Taylor, knelt beside her mother at the casket to say a final goodbye.
An uncle later said of this fine lieutenant, "He was proud of what
he was doing and proud of his family, a hard working guy -- the best guy
you can ever know. I hope the American people don't forget." This nation
does not forget.
Last month, in Section 60, First Lieutenant Rob Jenkins was buried, along
with five other members of a bomber crew. They were lost when their plane
was shot down over North Africa in 1942. Rob Jenkins had joined the Army
Air Corps after Pearl Harbor, and he was 20 years old on his final mission.
Six decades later, his plane was found and the remains of the crew were
carefully identified, returned home and buried with military honors. Rob's
sister, Helen, said, "We were very proud that the government would care
that much. After all, it was such a long time ago." This nation does
not forget. (Applause.)
On Memorial Day, Americans place flags on military graves, walk past a wall
of black granite in Washington, D.C., and many families think of a face and
voice they miss so much. Today, we honor the men and women who have worn
the nation's uniform and were last seen on duty. From the battles of Iraq
and Afghanistan, to the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, to the trials of
World War, to the struggles that made us a nation, today we recall that liberty
is always the achievement of courage.
And today we remember all who have died, all who are still missing and all
who mourn. And on this day, especially, our nation is grateful to the brave
and fallen defenders of freedom. In every generation of Americans we have
found courage equal to the tasks of our country. The farms and small towns
and city streets of this land have always produced free citizens who assume
the discipline and duty of military life. And time after time, they have
proven that the moral force of democracy is mightier than the will and cunning
of any tyrant.
The widow of one of our Marines in Iraq made this point very simply. "There
is good and evil in the world." she said, "That's what's going
on. And he was the good." All the good people we honor today were willing
to die in the service of our country and our cause. Yet all of them wanted
to live. And the images they carried with them at the end were the people
they loved and the familiar sights of home.
Not long before his death last month, Army Captain James Adamouski of Springfield,
Virginia, wrote this to his wife Meighan. "I do my job 110 percent and
don't get distracted or discouraged when I'm out flying on missions. However,
when I have some down time and get to really thinking, I realize that for
all the good times -- all the good things we're doing here, I just plain
In his last letter home from the Middle East, Staff Sergeant Lincoln Hollinsaid,
of Malden. Illinois, said how much he appreciated getting mail from his family.
He added, "I wish my truck and boat knew how to write." (Laughter.) "I
sure do miss them." (Laughter.) He went on, "Today would be a beautiful
fishing day. I can see it now: drop my electronic anchors, kick my feet up,
three poles out with hooks in search for that elusive, yet loveable, catfish."
Americans like these did not fight for glory, but to fulfil a duty. They
did not year to be heroes, they yearned to see mom and dad again and to hold
their sweethearts and to watch their sons and daughters grow. They wanted
the daily miracle of freedom in America, yet they gave all that up and gave
life itself for the sake of others.
Their sacrifice was great, but not in vain. All Americans and every free
nation on earth can trace their liberty to the white markers of places like
Arlington National Cemetery. And may God keep us ever grateful. (Applause.)
Almost seven weeks ago, an Army Ranger, Captain Russell Rippetoe was laid
to rest in Section 60. Captian Rippetoe's father, Joe, a retired Lieutenant
Colonel, gave a farewell salute at the grave of his only son. Russell Rippetoe
served with distinction in Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning both the Bronze
Star and the Purple Heart.
On the back of his dog tag were engraved these words, from the book of Joshua, "Have
not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither
be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee." This faithful
Army captain has joined a noble company of service and sacrifice gathered
row by row. These men and women were strong and courageous and not dismayed.
And we pray they have found their peace in the arms of God.