WASHINGTON, May 29, 2017 —
President Donald J. Trump paid the nation’s respects to those lost in war during Memorial Day ceremonies here today.
In a speech after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, he said “words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love or the totality of their courage. We can only hope every day that we prove worthy, not only of their sacrifice and service but of the sacrifices made by their families and loved ones they left behind.”
The president spoke of the sacrifice of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s family whose son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. “We grieve with you, we honor you, and we pledge to you that we will always remember Robert and what he did for all of us,” the president said.
Trump also paid tribute to World War II veteran and former Sen. Bob Dole during the speech and turned to the wars of today by remembering Army Spc. Christopher D. Horton, an Oklahoma National Guard sniper who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011, and Army Maj. Andrew D. Byers, a Green Beret officer killed in action in Afghanistan last year.
Horton’s widow, Jane, and Byers parents, Rose and David, were at the ceremony and the president promised that America’s gratitude to them “is boundless and undying. We will always be there.”
Dunford: 'Selflessness, Courage, Commitment' Define Story of Fallen Vets
Since the founding of the United States, more than 42 million Americans have stepped forward to serve their country in uniform, said Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford during his remarks at the memorial ceremony. “Their story is one of selflessness, it is one of courage, and it is one of sheer commitment,” he said. “But their story is also one of extraordinary sacrifice. More than 1 million Americans who answered the call to duty, gave their last full measure of devotion so their fellow citizens could live in freedom and raise their children in peace.”
Their sacrifices and the sacrifices of the families and friends must have meaning, the general said. “They were people who stood for something larger than themselves,” he said. “They were people who embodied the most important values and traditions of our nation. They were people who understood that what we have in our country is worth fighting for. They were people who made a difference.”
He urged all Americans to work together with those sacrifices in mind. “If we truly want to give meaning to the sacrifice of those who gave all on our behalf, each of us will leave here today determined to find, in some small way, a method of serving our nation and our communities in their honor,” he said.
Mattis Calls for Unity Around Sacrifice
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quoted Robert L. Binyon’s poem written during World War 1.
“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old," the secretary read. "Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
Mattis, too, said he wants Americans to unite around the sacrifice and the sacrifices of the families.
“The empty chair on a holiday is empty every day,” he said. “The photograph that goes wherever you do -- the picture fades, but the person in it does not. Their fighting spirit persists. Passed on through the ranks, their spirit echoes in those that serve today in the air, on land and at sea. In a world awash with change, some things stand firm. Some things are as Plato said: ‘good and true and beautiful.’"
Mattis urged Americans to ensure the loss has meaning. “Unite your sorrow to their awesome purpose,” he said.
After the ceremony, the president visited with families in Section 60 of the cemetery, where most of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.