May 23rd, 2009
11:20 AM ET
6 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. The Party of NO is only "pro-life" so they can kill the "babies" 18 years later as soldiers in an elective religious war!

    I will pay tribute to all fallen veterans just as always.

    Also, perhaps NASA funding should be trimmed back, so the money could be rerouted to veteran care, especially for hospital updates and more intensive medical care for post traumatic stress.

    Look closer at stars or help the war wounded here on earth, seems like a simple decision to me.

    May 23, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  2. Republicans are the American Taliban

    Mancow declares waterboarding " torture "!! Hannity is too much of a toe tapper to submit to it as he promised on his show!! I think the issue is closed now....

    May 23, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. barking republican ankle biters

    I think TCM and his other 40 personalities should volunteer for the army in a few years when he turns 18.

    May 23, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. BOUDIN

    Real Americans already pay tribute to vets without having to be asked by the president to do so.

    May 23, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  5. WAKE UP Mr. Hollywood President...

    Laughable! This from an individual who called Americans arrogant, who never served in the military in his life and had to be shamed by John McCain into visiting Iraq while running for office. Pretty words, Mr. O, but not much substance.

    May 23, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. alvino

    Osama-

    Glad you right wing nuts are now posting under your true heroes name. Keep it up slime ball!

    May 23, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. Simmy

    TO All TROOPS: Active and Veterans,

    To ALL stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, My family and I THANK YOU

    for your service to this wonderful country we call America......Words can't express how we feel about your bravery, and the ultimate price many have paid for the freedom many of US take for granted.......May God continue to bless and protect you, and bring you home soon......You are always in our thoughts and prayers......Peace...

    THANK YOU ALL SOLDIERS: You are wonderful men and women....

    May 23, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Arack Bobama

    Our troops being paid tribute by Obama is like Bill Gates getting an 'atta boy' from Hugo Chavez. It's completely meaningless (and done for political purposes only) when you know from a long list of his actions that he believes the complete opposite.

    May 23, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Maggie

    hey fool,you didn't get very far with wanting them to pay for their own insurance if injured did you.
    You are such a twofaced lowlife.

    May 23, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. julian

    "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"

    Yes you and your progressive cohorts are guilty of treating our troops as you rightly stated

    May 23, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. Lori

    I always pay tribute to our veterans. It's funny that Republicans claim to care about our troops but will blindly send them into wars we have no business being in (the unjust Iraq war is no World War II), how poorly our veterans have been treated when they return under Republican Presidents, etc. Finally, we have a President that cares about our troops (their voting record of him last year proves that more in the military are voting Democrat than ever before) and will do his best to treat their lives with the dignity they deserve by not allowing our sons and daughters to die FOR NO REASON. God bless our military and our President!

    May 23, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Gary

    Sometimes we forget that freedom exists only because people have fought for it. Our freedom and success and material wealth, even our lives are all very fragile. I appreciate the sacrifices of our men and women (and their families) who have brought freedom to the US, Europe, South Korea, Tiawan, Isreal, Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of these countries and regions would be less free, less safe and less stable if not for the efforts of our military. Thank you.

    May 23, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. JOhn

    I will,

    Thank you mr. President!

    May 23, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. Republicans are the American Taliban

    When will Bristol Palin show her patriotism and enlist in a branch of the military??

    May 23, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. To "Party of NO" Putz!

    The non-aborted "babies" later volunteered to become soldiers in response to the horrors of 911 and to protect idiots like you from possibly not having to go through that again.

    May 23, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Tati

    Only two individuals have been willing to lay their lives down for us Americans: Jesus Christ and the American soldier

    May 23, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. Grrr-awful-o

    And don't forget to pay tribute to our intelligence service people as well, Nancy...

    May 23, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. Claudia in Houson

    God bless or troops and their families. It is to them we owe so much, not just today but everyday.

    May 23, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. No Hillary = No Obama

    Obama is turning out to be the quintessent opportunist. I thought it interesting when Bill Maher alluded to Obama"s presidency, so far, as nothing more then a spray can of Bush-Be-Gone. Obama seems to find the obvious political pot holes left by Bush or years of Congressional neglect and is filling them – bail outs, card card rules, equal pay for women. I think Obama is pissed off about Gitmo because he finally is faced with a challenge instead of an opportunity.

    May 23, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. C W

    The Osama poster claims that President Obama will take away a third of our troops' paychecks come October 2009 – where do you get this nonsense? And to post such things with absolutely no substantiating information makes transparent your attempt to slam the President at every opportunity.

    That said, I will pay tribute to our veterans and all my loved ones who have passed, including my grandfather (WWI Navy pilot) and my father-in-law (WWII Infantryman in Italy).

    Thank you all for your service!

    May 23, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  21. offwallst

    You mean the same way you spoke about them during the campaigne

    you flip flopper!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 23, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. carlos

    to the trashy Osama Bin Laden.......you racist repugnant reptile and a CONservative at that......evils

    May 23, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  23. Ralph

    The Constitution is the place to "touch".

    May 23, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  24. J of K

    Obama, you are a hypocrite ! You dismiss our constitution, our bill of rights, you bow to a muslim king and you appologize to another country for the American way of life . You only represent yourself NOT the americans of the United States of America. You tell us to honor our troops. But YOU dishonor them every time you open your mouth ! ! ! !

    May 23, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  25. J of K

    This is just another photo op for you !

    May 23, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
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