In this week’s address, US President Barack Obama solemnly reflected on the meaning of Memorial Day and recognized the sacrifices made by the American warriors who never made it back home. Though the President stressed that citizens should thank active-duty troops and veterans every day of the year, he emphasized that Memorial Day is reserved for remembering the unselfish men and women who gave their lives in defense of the nation. In addition to reflecting on the unpayable debt owed to fallen servicemembers, Americans should also make an effort to offer support to the families of their countrymen who gave everything. Whether it’s hiring a veteran, reaching out to a grieving family member, or simply pausing for a moment of silent thanks, the President wants the country to join him in an act of remembrance during the Memorial weekend.
Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
The White House
May 28, 2016
Hi, everybody. Right now, there are American troops serving in harm’s way and standing sentry around the world. There are veterans who’ve served honorably in times of war and peace, and often came home bearing the invisible and visible wounds of war. They may not speak the loudest about their patriotism – they let their actions do that. And the right time to think of these men and women, and thank them for their service and sacrifice, is every day of the year.
Memorial Day, which we’ll observe Monday, is different. It’s the day we remember those who never made it home; those who never had the chance to take off the uniform and be honored as a veteran. It’s the day we stop to reflect with gratitude on the sacrifice of generations who made us more prosperous and free, and to think of the loved ones they left behind.
Remembering them – searing their stories and their contributions into our collective memory – that’s an awesome responsibility. It’s one that all of us share as citizens.
As Commander-in-Chief, I have no more solemn obligation than leading our men and women in uniform. Making sure they have what they need to succeed. Making sure we only send them into harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary. And if they make the ultimate sacrifice – if they give their very lives – we have to do more than honor their memory.
We have to be there for their families. Over the years, Michelle and I have spent quiet moments with the families of the fallen – husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. They’ve shared their pain – but also their pride in the sacrifices their loved ones made under our proud flag.
It’s up to the rest of us to live our lives in a way that’s worthy of these sacrifices.
The idea to set aside a Memorial Day each year didn’t come from our government – it came from ordinary citizens who acknowledged that while we can’t build monuments to every heroic act of every warrior we lost in battle, we can keep their memories alive by taking one day out of the year to decorate the places where they’re buried.
That’s something that so many of our fellow Americans are doing this weekend. Remembering. Remembering the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who died in our defense. Remembering those who remain missing. Remembering that they were our fellow citizens and churchgoers, classmates and children, and more often than not, the best of us.
So this Memorial weekend, I hope you’ll join me in acts of remembrance. Lay a flower or plant a flag at a fallen hero’s final resting place. Reach out to a Gold Star Family in your community, and listen to the story they have to tell. Send a care package to our troops overseas, volunteer to make a wounded warrior’s day a little easier, or hire a veteran who is ready and willing to serve at home just as they did abroad.
Or just pause, take a moment, and offer a silent word of prayer or a public word of thanks.
The debt we owe our fallen heroes is one we can never truly repay. But our responsibility to remember is something we can live up to every day of the year.
Thanks. May God watch over our fallen heroes and their families, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.