‘America’s Greatest Heroes,’ Trump, Defense Leaders Honor Fallen
America will forever remember the service and sacrifice of those who fought and died for the nation’s freedom, President Donald J. Trump said today at the Memorial Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery.
Trump, escorted by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, and Army Maj. Gen. Michael Howard, commanding general, U.S. Army Military District of Washington, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A lone bugler then played taps; a moment of silence was observed.
In remarks at the cemetery’s amphitheater, Trump said the nation was shaped by the brave men and women who gave all in service. America pauses on this solemn day to remember their sacrifices, he said.
“We are gathered here on the sacred soil of Arlington National Cemetery to honor the lives and deeds of America’s greatest heroes -- the men and women who laid down their lives for our freedom," Trump said.
Those who gave their lives in service to the nation represent the full tapestry of American life, he said. They came from different backgrounds, were of all military ranks, and were of all race, color and creeds, he said. Brothers and sisters in arms, they are forever united in their undying love for the country, he said.
"They died so that freedom could live," he said.
Spirit of the Service Member
In introducing Trump, Mattis said Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson best captures the spirit of today. The secretary then read Stevenson’s poem:
“Under the wide and starry sky, dig the grave and let me lie. Glad did I live and gladly die, and I laid me down with a will. This be the verse you grave for me: ‘Here he lies where he longed to be; home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.’”
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the nation pauses to remember the more than 1 million U.S. service members who gave all so Americans could live in freedom and raise their children in peace.
He noted it is also the 100th anniversary of World War I. "In that war to end all wars, Americans deployed to Europe and promised that they would not come back ''til it's over, over there.'"
That phrase, he said, captures the spirit of every American who has responded to the nation's call by stating 'here I am, send me,' he said.
"It is that selfless service that we associate with the memory of our fallen sons and daughters, moms and dads, brothers, sisters and friends," the general said. "Today we honor their service and the enormity of their sacrifice. Today we also reflect on the sacrifice of the families they left behind and for whom every day is Memorial Day."
The life and legacy of the fallen will never be forgotten, he said.
“Those we honor represent the very best of our nation,” Dunford said. “They shared a commitment to something greater than themselves and they were people who understood what we have in this country is worth fighting for."
Heroes Shaped Destiny of Country
Trump honored those who have served and applauded audience members World War II veteran and former Senator Bob Dole, and the oldest living survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack, Ray Chavez.
The president also paid tribute to military survivor families.
"We cannot imagine the depth of emotion that this day brings,” he said. “Each year, the grief renewed, the memories relived, those last beautiful moments together, cherished and always remembered."
A grateful nation shares the pride of their service, Trump said. “Today our whole country thanks you, embraces you, and pledges to you we will never forget our heroes,” he said.
He recognized in the audience the families of fallen service members Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Greene, Army Capt. Mark Stubenhofer, and Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Jacobs.
"To every family member of the fallen, I want you know that the legacy of those you lost does not fade with time, but grows only more powerful,” he said.
The president promised America will never stop searching for the 82,000 American service members who remain missing from conflicts over the last century.
"Our fallen heroes have not only written our history, they've shaped our destiny,” he said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)