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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the National Memorial Day Observance

By Gen. Martin Dempsey

DEMPSEY: Thanks very much. Let me begin by thanking the President's Own, and Mastery Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Bennear who did that rousing rendition of the National Anthem. How about we give them one more round of applause. [applause]

Mr. President, Secretary Carter, members of Congress, veterans, and fellow Americans, good morning and welcome. We come together in this anointed place, on this appointed date to honor our fallen warriors, those champions of freedom who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

And I especially want to thank their families on behalf of the men and women of our armed forces. I want you to know that you are always in our hearts. We along with a grateful nation remain inspired by your strength and remarkable courage, and I want to make special mention of my teammates from the tragedy assistance program for survivors whose family members and children are here celebrating their good grief camp. God bless you guys. [applause]

I’m often asked by my fellow countrymen and women how to appropriately honor our fallen. They wonder how they can best pay tribute to those laid to rest beneath our flag, so that we may stand freely beside it today.

I tell them simply to remember.

Our great nation has set aside today for this very purpose; to remember. To remember how our fallen stood with courage and to memorialize their devotion to America and her principles. But the sun will set on this day and disappear behind the foothills of Virginia, and in the morning when it rises over the Potomac, what then? What should we do?


Tomorrow, when you resume life's daily routines, take a moment to think of the families who will return home and leave their loved ones here in this sacred place. Think of the families of those brave souls in cemeteries at home and abroad, in unmarked graves on distant battlefields, and in the tranquil blue seas. Think of the empty chair at their dinner table and the one less voice of laughter in their house. And what of next week, and next month, what should we do then?


When you see our star-spangled banner waving over your child's school or local shopping center or in front of your neighbor’s home, take a moment to consider those men and women who gave their lives for the principles that make America great. upon seeing a purple heart license plate or hearing the national anthem at a sporting event take a moment to think of those who did not survive their wounds, who did not return home, who can never again salutes the flag or share in the freedoms we experience each and every day.

These are the acts of remembrance, daily rituals of reflection handed down to us by families of the fallen for generations. Remembrance, like love and trust, only truly exists in our actions. It’s not a place we visited, or a simple sentiment, rather it’s a debt of attitude that shapes the way we live our lives.

Let us pledge today to make a habit of these acts of remembrance as an example for the generations that follow. And a year from today, on the last Monday of May, we will reconvene on this hallowed ground to reaffirm our promise to always remember.

May God give rest to our fallen, and our missing, solace to their families, and blessings to the United States of America.

Thank you.