Tony Principi—Thank you for that kind introduction and for your past leadership as Secretary of VA. Let me also acknowledge:
I am most honored to join you today to break ground on a project that is sure to enhance both Washington’s landscape as well as the symbolism reflected in our National landmarks and monuments. Our deepest thanks go to Lois Pope, who, as chair of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Foundation, has created legions of supporters all across this Nation for this noble and worthy idea. With passion and energy, she has been the engine behind the enormous effort to honor men and women, of every generation, who have given so much—for some, everything, short of life itself—for our democracy.
George Marshall once described the value of America’s defenders: “It is impossible,” he said, “for the Nation to compensate for the services of a fighting man. There is no pay scale that is high enough to buy the services of a single [one of them] during even a few minutes of the agony of combat, the physical miseries of the campaign, or the extreme personal inconvenience of leaving home to go to the most dangerous spots on earth to serve the Nation.”
America has always been blessed with sons and daughters imbued with that unwavering sense of purpose to something larger than self—that steadfast sense of duty to a Nation we all love. Our power as a Nation derives from that persevering, buoyant, free-bred national spirit that has led so many to give what President Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion” to safeguard our principles—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As it was at Lexington and Concord, it is still today. From Bunker Hill to Baghdad, from Basra to Kabul and Kandahar and beyond, the price of liberty has been paid through the vigilance and valor of young Americans who put principle and ideal before self-interest, personal comfort, or safety. All too often their noble service ended in life-altering injury: stark reminders—physical, emotional, and spiritual—of freedom’s cost. By any measure, there are few who have given more to our country than the three million disabled Veterans living amongst us.
The creation of this memorial is fitting tribute to patriots who answered the Nation’s call of duty, and who have, in the face of devastating injury, shown us a quality of courage at which we can only marvel.
Here, in the shadow of our Nation’s Capitol, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial will stand as an enduring tribute to the towering courage, selfless sacrifice, and steadfast loyalty of all our disabled Veterans.
Its imposing granite walls and cypress trees symbolize the strength of their warrior heritage. The reflecting pool and star-shaped fountain will mirror and reaffirm their heroism. And its eternal flame will ensure that the passage of time will not dim the memory of such selfless service.
I extend to America’s disabled Veterans deep personal regards and profound respect for your sacrifice. On behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I offer our respect and admiration for your service and for your courage in living life every day. On behalf of President Barack Obama, I extend to you the heartfelt thanks of your commander-in-chief.
May God bless those who serve and have served in our Nation’s armed forces. May God continue to bless our wonderful country.