“Let us never forget”: President Obama Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, 5/25/13

“Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in nine years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq. Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home. Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful. And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan….

….Perhaps it’s a tribute to our remarkable all-volunteer force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor. Perhaps it’s a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and greater power. But regardless of the reason, this truth cannot be ignored that today most Americans are not directly touched by war.

As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day. Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening. I think about a letter I received from a Naval officer, a reservist who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. And he wrote me, “I’m concerned that our work in Afghanistan is fading from memory.” And he went on to ask that we do more to keep this conflict “alive and focused in the hearts and minds of our own people.”

And he’s right. As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan. They’re still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission. And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington….

So today, we remember their service. Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten. And just as we honor them, we hold their families close. Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating. And 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, and every time I grieve with a Gold Star family.

And that’s why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours: to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America’s uniform — to give our troops the resources they need; to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or who are held as prisoners of war….

Last fall, I received a letter from Candie Averette, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Both of her sons are Marines. Her oldest served two tours in Iraq. Her youngest was in Afghanistan at the time. He was, in her words, “100 percent devoted to his deployment and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Reading Candie’s letter, it was clear she was extraordinarily proud of the life her boys had chosen. But she also had a request on behalf of all the mothers just like her. She said, “Please don’t forget about my child and every other Marine and soldier over there who proudly choose to defend their country.”

A mother’s plea — please don’t forget. On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us be true and meet that promise. Let it be our task, every single one of us, to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country. Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/13ZEPNs

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