Presidential Radio Address - 24 May 2008
Good morning. This Memorial Day weekend, kids will be out of school, moms and dads will be firing up the grill, and families across our country will mark the unofficial beginning of summer. But as we do, we should all remember the true purpose of this holiday -- to honor the sacrifices that make our freedom possible.
On Monday, I will commemorate Memorial Day by visiting Arlington National Cemetery, where I will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The tomb is the final resting place of three brave American soldiers who lost their lives in combat. The names of these veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean War are known only to God. But their valor is known to us all.
Throughout American history, this valor has preserved our way of life and our sacred freedoms. It was this valor that won our independence. It was this valor that removed the stain of slavery from our Nation. And it was this valor that defeated the great totalitarian threats of the last century.
Today, the men and women of our military are facing a new totalitarian threat to our freedom. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fronts around the world, they continue the proud legacy of those who came before them. They bear their responsibilities with quiet dignity and honor. And some have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country.
One such hero was Sergeant First Class Benjamin Sebban of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. As the senior medic in his squadron, Ben made sacrifice a way of life. When younger medics were learning how to insert IVs, he would offer his own arm for practice. And when the time came, Ben did not hesitate to offer his fellow soldiers far more.
On March 17, 2007, in Iraq's Diyala province, Ben saw a truck filled with explosives racing toward his team of paratroopers. He ran into the open to warn them, exposing himself to the blast. Ben received severe wounds, but this good medic never bothered to check his own injuries. Instead, he devoted his final moments on this earth to treating others. Earlier this week, in a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, I had the honor of presenting Sergeant Sebban's mom with the Silver Star that he earned.
No words are adequate to console those who have lost a loved one serving our Nation. We can only offer our prayers and join in their grief. We grieve for the mother who hears the sound of her child's 21-gun salute. We grieve for the husband or wife who receives a folded flag. We grieve for a young son or daughter who only knows dad from a photograph.
One holiday is not enough to commemorate all of the sacrifices that have been made by America's men and women in uniform. No group has ever done more to defend liberty than the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. Their bravery has done more than simply win battles. It has done more than win wars. It has secured a way of life for our entire country. These heroes and their families should be in our thoughts and prayers on a daily basis, and they should receive our loving thanks at every possible opportunity.
This Memorial Day, I ask all Americans to honor the sacrifices of those who have served you and our country. One way to do so is by joining in a moment of remembrance that will be marked across our country at 3:00 p.m. local time. At that moment, Major League Baseball games will pause, the National Memorial Day parade will halt, Amtrak trains will blow their whistles, and buglers in military cemeteries will play Taps. You can participate by placing a flag at a veteran's grave, taking your family to the battlefields where freedom was defended, or saying a silent prayer for all the Americans who were delivered out of the agony of war to meet their Creator. Their bravery has preserved the country we love so dearly.
Thank you for listening.