May 23rd, 2009
11:20 AM ET
5 years ago

Obama calls on Americans to pay tribute to troops

(CNN) - President Obama on Saturday called on Americans to reflect on the Memorial Day holiday and pay tribute to the service of the troops and their families.

“Our fighting men and women – and the military families who love them – embody what is best in America. And we have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us,” he said in his weekly address.

The president said the nation has “all too often in recent years” failed up to live up to that responsibility - “a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear – and all who have worn – the proud uniform of our country.”

Obama reiterated his vow to only send servicemen and women to war when absolutely necessary, and to ensure that they are properly trained and equipped.

The president encouraged Americans to send a letter or a care package to troops overseas, or doing something as simple as saying "thank you" to a veteran.

"That is what Memorial Day is all about. It is about doing all we can to repay the debt we owe to those men and women who have answered our nation’s call by fighting under its flag," he said.

"It’s about remembering each and every one of those moments when our survival as a nation came down not simply to the wisdom of our leaders or the resilience of our people, but to the courage and valor of our fighting men and women. For it is only by remembering these moments that we can truly appreciate a simple lesson of American life – that what makes all we are and all we aspire to be possible are the sacrifices of an unbroken line of Americans that stretches back to our nation’s founding."

FULL TRANSCRIPT

This Memorial Day weekend, Americans will gather on lawns and porches, fire up the grill, and enjoy the company of family, friends, and neighbors. But this is not only a time for celebration, it is also a time to reflect on what this holiday is all about; to pay tribute to our fallen heroes; and to remember the servicemen and women who cannot be with us this year because they are standing post far from home – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world.

On Friday, I traveled to Annapolis, where I spoke at the Commencement of the United States Naval Academy. It was an honor to address some of America’s newest sailors and Marines as their Commander-in-Chief. Looking out at all of those young men and women, I was reminded of the extraordinary service that they are rendering to our country. And I was reminded, too, of all of the sacrifices that their parents, siblings, and loved ones make each day on their behalf and on our behalf.

Our fighting men and women – and the military families who love them – embody what is best in America. And we have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us.

And yet, all too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility. We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve. That is a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear – and all who have worn – the proud uniform of our country.

And that is a sacred trust I am committed to keeping as President of the United States. That is why I will send our servicemen and women into harm’s way only when it is necessary, and ensure that they have the training and equipment they need when they enter the theater of war.

That is why we are building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs with the largest single-year funding increase in three decades. It’s a commitment that will help us provide our veterans with the support and benefits they have earned, and expand quality health care to a half million more veterans.

That is why, this week, I signed a bill that will eliminate some of the waste and inefficiency in our defense projects – reform that will better protect our nation, better protect our troops, and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

And that is why we are laying a new foundation for our economy so that when our troops return home and take off the uniform, they can find a good job, provide for their families, and earn a college degree on a Post-9/11 GI Bill that will offer them the same opportunity to live out their dreams that was afforded our greatest generation.

These are some of the ways we can, must, and will honor the service of our troops and the sacrifice of their families. But we must also do our part, not only as a nation, but as individuals for those Americans who are bearing the burden of wars being fought on our behalf. That can mean sending a letter or a care package to our troops overseas. It can mean volunteering at a clinic where a wounded warrior is being treated or bringing supplies to a homeless veterans center. Or it can mean something as simple as saying “thank you” to a veteran you pass on the street.

That is what Memorial Day is all about. It is about doing all we can to repay the debt we owe to those men and women who have answered our nation’s call by fighting under its flag. It is about recognizing that we, as a people, did not get here by accident or good fortune alone. It’s about remembering the hard winter of 1776, when our fragile American experiment seemed doomed to fail; and the early battles of 1861 when a union victory was anything but certain; and the summer of 1944, when the fate of a world rested on a perilous landing unlike any ever attempted.

It’s about remembering each and every one of those moments when our survival as a nation came down not simply to the wisdom of our leaders or the resilience of our people, but to the courage and valor of our fighting men and women. For it is only by remembering these moments that we can truly appreciate a simple lesson of American life – that what makes all we are and all we aspire to be possible are the sacrifices of an unbroken line of Americans that stretches back to our nation’s founding.

That is the meaning of this holiday. That is a truth at the heart of our history. And that is a lesson I hope all Americans will carry with them this Memorial Day weekend and beyond.

Thank you.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. annie for Palin

    Did he see any of them out in front of them like he said last year during the campaign? Last year he didn't even know what the holiday meant. How can someone run for president of the great UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and not even know what our hoidays represent? Must have had his teleprompter on this year!

    May 23, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. J.L.L. Indiana

    Did he actually use the responsibility in referring to the American People.
    Most Americans today are all about their rights but are totally oblivious to any responsibility. My apologies to those who do take there responsibility to there country seriously but you know you are in the minority.

    May 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  3. Never Repub again

    Bush and Cheney not only screwed up the Republican Party, the economy, Iraq, Afganistan, US Govt, what didnt they screw up.
    Mr Obama is a breath of fresh air. Keep up the good work.

    May 23, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. NYC REPUB

    A heartfelt speech. It is most interesting to see President Obama pass his learning curve, and become the total package President.....he is shaping into a tough President, w/ common sense. These leaders, are only shaped during the crisis that we face now.
    Crisies, of, war, & economic turmoil...... America, you elected the right man......This guy will be hard to beat in 2012.

    May 23, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. David Evan

    Thank you, Mr. President for being our leader, especially at this time.

    May 23, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. Charlie in Maine

    This guy has class.

    May 23, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. Sari

    To the person with the very long name starting with The Party of.. :

    NASA is largely self sustaining, through clever use of patents and products. The money that IS floated to it isn't enough to even really make a dent in veteran care.

    You want to help the war wounded, probably the best way to go is on the individual community level. Find your local VA, get some people together, and volunteer. Money-wise, Nothing has EVER really been well-funded for our veterans. Even before the space program.

    May 23, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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