May 31, 2022
President Biden Delivers Remarks in Observance of Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery 5/30/22 Transcript
President Biden delivers the Memorial Day Address at the 154th National Memorial Day on 5/30/22. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 2: (00:00)
Speaker 1: (00:00)
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Speaker 4: (05:03)
Speaker 3: (05:08)
Ladies and gentlemen, Chaplain Colonel James Foster, command chaplain Joint Task Force National Capital Region, and the United States Army Military District of Washington.
Chaplain Colonel James Foster: (05:21)
I invite you to a moment of prayer with me on this hot but amazing day. Almighty God who rules the nations and gives freely to those who ask, I praise you this morning and thank you for a nation here who continues to call upon your name. I thank you for the blessings you have bestowed upon us and the freedoms we enjoy because of your righteous right arm. For generation after generation now, the men and women of this nation have stood up when called upon in order to do our very best at providing liberty, justice for all, and a peace that passes all understanding. The headstones surrounding this amphitheater and a multitude of others around the globe stand and representation of the brave souls that have gone on before us and for which we give particular thanks today. Lord, they call out to us to choose wisely in our endeavors, so on this day of remembrance, stir our hearts to stand united and to continue striving for that piece that only you provide. Now bless our efforts and our words in this place today in your holy name I ask it, amen.
Speaker 3: (06:53)
Please remain standing for our national anthem presented by the United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants.
Speaker 3: (07:06)
Speaker 2: (07:06)
Speaker 3: (08:22)
Please be seated. Ladies and gentlemen, General Mark A Milley.
General Mark A Milley: (08:38)
Mr. President, Madam Vice President, Secretary Austin, distinguished guests, fellow Americans, and most importantly, Gold Star families, welcome to all. And it’s an honor to join you all in solemn remembrance and reflection on this 154th observance of Memorial Day for the over one million Americans who have given the last full measure of devotion in service to our country.
General Mark A Milley: (09:12)
Beginning with the founding of our nation, more than 42 million Americans have worn the cloth of our country. From Lexington and Concord to Yorktown, from Manassas to Appomattox, in Belleau Wood and Normandy and Iwo Jima, Pusan, Incheon, the Ia Drang, Ramadi, Mosul, and the Arghandab, these places are forever etched in our national vocabulary and in our collective memory. The story of the sacrifices made is the story of our nation, it’s the story of our values, and behind every fallen soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine is a family, a family whose sacrifice beats in the heart of every American.
General Mark A Milley: (10:03)
Twice beats in the heart of every American. On this day, reflect on the parents who grow up without the comfort of their child, of the children who grow up without a parent, for the families of our fallen every day is Memorial day. Our fallen fought and gave their lives for an idea, a simple yet powerful idea. The idea that is America embedded in our founding documents, the declaration of independence and the constitution, for which we swear and oath. The idea that here in the United States of America, every single one of us is born free and equal. No matter who you are, no matter where you came from under these colors of red, white, and blue, all of us, every single one of us is an American. And our fallen lived knowing that freedom and the idea that is America is worth fighting for and is up to us the living, to ensure they did not die in vain.
General Mark A Milley: (11:25)
And we do that by recommitting ourselves to the idea, the values that constitute America, that we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and all women are endowed by their creator with the in alienable rights of life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we uphold the cause, not just for which they died, but the cause for which they lived. And we must continue. We must live a life that is worthy of their sacrifice. And we continue to build this nation and never forget the idea that is America. So on this day, every day, may God bless our fallen and the cause for which they gave their all. It is now my privilege to introduce the secretary of defense, a man who I have personally witnessed his leadership in the crucible of battle. And I have had the pleasure of knowing him for a quarter of a century. He’s a leader of courage, a leader of integrity, a leader of grit. It’s my pleasure to serve alongside him yet again, ladies and gentlemen, it’s my honor to introduce the 28th United States, secretary defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (12:54)
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, vice president Harris, Mr. M. Hoff, fellow members of the cabinet, general Millie and members of the joint chiefs of staff, good afternoon. To our distinguished guests, our service members and my fellow veterans, thank you for letting us share this day with you and to the gold star and surviving families here, you honor us with your presence. I know that when you look across this hollowed ground, you ache for those you have lost your devotion to your loved ones, has never faltered. And in turn America owes all of you support that does not waiver. We renew that dedication every Memorial day.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (14:12)
And as we do, we also renew our faith in our democracy and the values of self government that bind us together as Americans. We understand the stakes. In the 21st century, the security of the world hinges again on a survival and success of the American experiment. And in turn that great experiment relies on the American Patriots who volunteer to keep their fellow citizens safe and their nation secure. And these Patriots carry the moral force that can be wielded only by free people defending their inalienable rights and the rule of law.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (15:10)
Today on the battle fills of Ukraine, the world, again sees the power of democratic citizens and soldiers to defy tyranny, cruelty, and oppression. Their freedom is under attack. And so is the international order rooted in the rules that we have built since world war II at such terrible costs. We understand the challenge, and we’re determined to meet it. As the president says in the battle between democracy and autocracies, democracies arising to the moment. We draw inspiration from the unity of our allies and partners, and we draw strength from the men and women of the United States military.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (16:04)
In the years, since we last gathered on the solemn day, America’s longest war has come to a close. And today we remember the 2,461 American service members and personnel who fell in Afghanistan. And we remember all those who still carry the wounds of that war, to body and to soul, we hold them in our hearts, alongside the Patriots, across generations who gave their lives to defend us all. The heroes here are joined together, united not just by their final resting place, but by their devotion to the values that gave life to our democracy. And they came from every state, from every territory, from every background and from every creed, but they were all Patriots who loved their country, who marched to defend our democracy and who fought to forge a more perfect union. Their sacrifice demands more than even our deepest gratitude.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (17:22)
In the words of president Kennedy, who rest nearby, “We must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” So as we honor our fallen today, let us live by their dedication, to democracy, to Liberty, and to the constitution. When choosing between what is easy and what is right, let us live by the example of our fallen warriors. And when the values that we hold dear are put to the test, let us live by the ideals that they gave their lives to defend. Today we hold the fallen in our prayers and every day we strive to make them proud. Thank you again for being here today.
Lloyd J. Austin III: (18:18)
And ladies and gentlemen, our commander in chief has been a staunch and steadfast champion, our men and women in of our men and women in uniform. And I know personally how much he values their sacrifice, their commitment, and how devoted he is to our men and women in uniform and to the families who serve alongside him. He has spent a lifetime in public service to advance the democratic ideals for which so many have given so much. It is my honor to introduce the president of the United States.
Joe Biden: (19:01)
Thank you. They lie here, glory and honor in quiet rose in Arlington, in cemeteries in Europe that I’ve visited. Many of you have been graves across our country, in towns, large and small, America’s beloved daughters and sons who dared all, risked all, and gave all to preserve and defend an idea, unlike any other in human history, the idea of the United States of America, and today as a nation, we undertake a sacred ritual to reflect and remember, because if we forget-
Joe Biden: (20:03)
To reflect and remember, because if we forget the lives that each of those silent markers represent, mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, children, if we forget what they sacrificed, what they made so that our nation might endure strong, free, and united, then we forget who we are, who we are. Ladies and gentlemen, our First Lady, the love of my life, Jill, Vice President Harris, the Second Gentleman, Secretary Austin, General Milley, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cabinet members, Gold Star families most importantly, and survivors, today we renew our sacred vow. It’s a simple vow, to remember. To remember.
Joe Biden: (20:56)
Memorial Day is always a day where pain and pride are mixed together. We all know it, sitting here. Jill and I know it. Today’s the day our son died. And, folks, for those who have lost a loved one in the service of our country, if your loved one is missing or unaccounted for, I know the ceremonies reopen that black hole in the center of your chest that just pulls you in, suffocates you.
Joe Biden: (21:36)
I said seven years ago today, our son, Major Beau Biden, took his last breath at Walter Reed. A major in the Delaware Army National Guard, he insisted on deploying to Iraq with his unit for a year when he was attorney general. Came home a decorated soldier, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Delaware’s Conspicuous Service Cross. He didn’t die in the line of duty. He came home from Iraq with cancer. It was a horrific cancer that stole us from him, and him from us, but still, it always feels to me on Memorial Day I see him, not as he was the last time I held his hand, but the day I pinned his bars on him as a second lieutenant. I see him with me down at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, hugging all the Gold Star families.
Joe Biden: (22:32)
Days like this bring back, before your eyes, their smile and their laugh. The last conversation you had, each of you know it. The hurt can be overwhelming, but for so many of you, as is with Jill and me, the hurt is wrapped around the knowledge that your loved one was part of something bigger, bigger than any of us. They chose a life of purpose. Sounds corny, like a Memorial Day speech, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. They chose a life of purpose. They had a mission, and above all, they believed in duty. They believed in honor. They believed in their country. And still today, we are free because they were brave. We live by the light of the flame of liberty that they kept burning, and so a part of them is still with us, no matter how long ago we lost them. As hard as it is for many to believe, especially those whose loss is still raw, I promise you the day will come when the memory of your loved one, your patriot, will bring a smile to your lip before it brings a tear to your eye. That’s when you know you’re going to make it.
Joe Biden: (24:07)
Today, American service members stand watch around the world, and, as many of you know, at often a great personal risk. And this Memorial Day, we know the memory is still painful of all the fallen who lost their lives during the last two decades in combat, each of them leaving behind a family, a community, hearts broken by their absence, and lives that will never be the same. We see in the hundreds of graves here in Section 60 at Arlington reminder that there’s nothing low-risk or low-cost about war for the women and men who fight it. 7,054 American military members gave their lives over 20 years of our Iraq and Afghan conflicts. Untold others died of injuries and illness connected to their service and these wars, and the enduring grief born by the survivors is a cost of war that we’ll carry as a nation forever.
Joe Biden: (25:24)
And so to every Gold Star family, to every survivor and family member and caregiver, this grateful nation owes you as well as that person you lost, and we can never repay the sacrifice, but we will never stop trying. We’ll never fail in our duty to remember. With their lives they bought our freedom, and so with our lives, we must always live up to their example, putting service before self, caring for our neighbors as ourselves, working fervently to bring our union just that much closer to fulfilling the founding creed, as the Secretary said, that all women and men are created equal. I’ve often said that, as a nation, we have many obligations, but the only one that is truly sacred, the only truly sacred obligation we have, is to prepare and equip those women and men we send into harm’s way, and care for them and their families when they return home and when they don’t. This is an obligation that unites Americans. It brings us together, to make sure the women and men who are willing to lay down their lives for us get the very best from us in return.
Joe Biden: (26:56)
I want to acknowledge that we’re making progress in key areas like comprehensive, bipartisan legislation that is advancing in Congress that will deliver healthcare services and benefits to veterans and their survivors impacted by toxic exposures. We don’t know how many Americans and service members may have died because of what they were exposed to on the battlefield, toxic smoke from burn pits near where they were based, burn pits that incinerated the wastes of war, medical and hazardous material, jet fuel, and so much more. We have a duty to do right by them, and I’m determined to make sure that our brave service families and members that served alongside them do not wait decades for the care and benefits that they deserve, and that’s why. That’s why we’re working so hard to find out what the facts are. Where we can still save lives, we have to act.
Joe Biden: (27:59)
All of us also have a duty to renew our commitment to the foundational values of our nation in their honor, for those are the values that have inspired generation after generation to service. On Friday, I spoke at the graduation and commissioning of… ceremony of the US Naval Academy. Had an opportunity to do that before as well. It was a remarkable experience again, an honor, looking out at those young men and women, newly commissioned officers embarking on a life of service. They hold before them the example of the heroes who have gone before them, many of your family members, heroes who’ve answered duty’s call at Lexington and Concord, Antietam and Gettysburg, Belleau Woods, the Battle of the Bulge, in Korea and Vietnam and Afghanistan, Iraq, and so many other places around the world, so many of whom never returned home, including the legacy of all those held prisoners of war or who are still missing in action.
Joe Biden: (29:15)
To be here today, soon after that joyful celebration at the Academy, is a bracing reminder of all that we ask of our service members and their families, for it’s on the strong shoulders and noble spirits of our service members that our freedom is built, our democracy sustained. And in this moment, when a war of aggression is once more being waged by Russia to snuff out the freedom, the democracy, the very culture and identity of neighboring Ukraine, we see so clearly all that’s at stake. Freedom has never been free. Democracy has always required champions.
Joe Biden: (30:03)
… free. Democracy has always required champions. Today, in the perennial struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are on the front lines fighting to save their nation, but their fight is part of a larger fight that unites all people. There’s a fight that so many of the patriots whose eternal rest is here in these hallowed grounds were part of, a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between appetites and ambition of a few who forever seek to dominate the lives and liberties of many. A battle for essential democratic principles, the rule of law, free and fair elections, freedom to speak and write and to assemble, freedom to worship as one chooses, freedom of the press, principles that are essential for a free society.
Joe Biden: (31:03)
I’ve heard this a lot. I’ve heard this a lot over the years, but we’re now realizing how real it is around the world in so many countries, as I speak. These are the foundations of our great experiment, but they are never guaranteed, even here in America. Every generation has to defeat democracy’s mortal foes, and into every generation heroes are born, willing to shed their blood for that which they and we hold dear. Ladies and gentlemen, today we remember, and we reaffirm, freedom is worth the sacrifice. Democracy is not perfect. It’s never been perfect. But it’s worth fighting for, if necessary, worth dying for. It’s more than just our form of government. It’s part of very soul of America. The soul of America. Our democracy is our greatest gift as a nation, made holy by those we’ve lost along the way.
Joe Biden: (32:18)
Our democracy is how we undertake the constant work of perfecting the union. And we have not perfected it, but we’ve never stopped trying, of opening the doors wider of opportunity and prosperity and justice for people everywhere. Our democracy is how we endure through every challenge, overcome every obstacle we faced through the last 246 years of self-government, and how we’ve come back stronger than before. We must never walk away from that. We must never betray the lives laid down to make our nation a beacon to the world, a citadel of liberty and justice for everybody. This is the mission of our time. Our memorial to them must not be just a day when we pause and pray, it must be a daily commitment to act, to come together, to be worthy of the price that was paid. May God bring comfort to all those who mourn. May God bless our gold star families and survivors. And please God, protect our troops. God bless America and all of you. Thank you.
Speaker 5: (33:59)
Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the playing of taps and the benediction.
Chaplain Colonel James Foster: (35:03)
Please join me in this closing prayer. Lord, thank you for this nation we call home. Thank you once again for those who, as the song says, “More than self their country loved.” And for the families of those fallen that are still grieving today. These are the patriots who continue to pay the price for the peace and security we enjoy. Now, God bless us with your spirit, as we strive to honor their full measure of devotion. And bless with strength and courage those who faithfully continue to serve. Now God bless America, her leaders, and all her children. Amen.
Speaker 5: (35:50)
Please remain standing for the singing of America The Beautiful, performed by the United States Air Force band and the Singing Sergeants.
Speaker 5: (35:58)