Memorial Day Observance
As Delivered by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 30, 2011
Mr. President, Secretary Gates, Secretary Shinseki, members of Congress, distinguished guests, Veterans, fellow Americans and most especially, families of our fallen warriors … welcome.
If it is true that a nation defines itself by those it honors … then on this day and in this place, let it be known that America still defines itself as the most noble of nations.
For we have been represented and we have been defended – we have been made free– not solely by the mere strength of our ideals, but by the courage of young men and women who have been willing to die to preserve those ideals.
Soldiers in battle will tell you, and they will mean it, that they fight primarily for each other; that they are driven forward under fire by an earnest desire not to let each other down.
But they would not have been placed in that horror and they would not have been so ready to sacrifice themselves were it not for a deeper love of country, a fondness for home, and a heart beating with ardor for the lives and the livelihoods of their loved ones.
And that is, I believe, how they would most like to be remembered – those who have fallen and are missing -- not for the lives they lost but for the ones they lived, the ones they protected, the ones they saved.
Their legacy is not in their death. It is, ultimately, NOT in their sacrifice.
It is in the sunrises and sunsets, the birthdays and the holidays, the first dates and the first borns; all the cherished moments they have made possible for the families they left behind and for the thousands of their brothers and sisters in arms still out there on point and on patrol.
Their legacy is in the hopes we yet harbor, the dreams we yet share, the laughter and the tears, the fear, the joy and the love. All the things that make us human; all the things that make us alive.
These are their gifts to us. Life is their legacy.
Let us live it to the top.
Let us mourn, yes, their passing, but let us also promise ourselves to do that which we can – every day, starting today – to prove worthy of what our fallen have given us at so great a cost.
Let us look after their children. Let us bind up the wounds of their comrades.
Let us remember that the best of what America represents to the world lies here in these and other hallowed places, but that the best of who we are as Americans lies in our own hearts and in our own actions in what we so to honor those who have rendered this last full measure of devotion.
Today, we must solemnly remember. Tomorrow, we must stridently and generously live.
Those brave who sleep here ask for nothing more and we who survive them can demand of ourselves nothing less.
God bless our fallen, the missing and their families, and God bless America.