Secretary Alexander, General Meyer, General Craig, Colonel Kingley, Colonel and Mrs. Urban, men of the 9th Division and the wives that stand beside you:
I can't get over how young you look. [Laughter] It's a special pleasure to be with the men whose service in World War II—in Sicily, in Africa, France—was responsible for the 9th Division being known ever after as the "Old Reliables."
We are here today to honor a hero. Unfortunately, he has had to wait almost 36 years for official recognition from the Government of his special act of heroism. But as the eye witness accounts testify and as the documents prepared at that time testify and as those of you who served with him know, Matt Urban is truly a hero of this great Nation.
Matt Urban becomes the sixth of the "Old Reliables" to be awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II service. His conduct throughout the period from June the 14th until September the 3d, 1944, was an outstanding example of the bold, courageous, inspired, and heroic action which this medal was established to honor.
We also have a special picture of the kind of leadership that sets Matt Urban apart. He galvanized his men, and he led them to success while repeatedly risking his life to save others and to break his troops out of positions when they were pinned down, in sometimes apparently hopeless circumstances, by punishing enemy fire. He was wounded several times. I notice that he wears the Purple Heart with six oak-leaf clusters. But he always kept coming back, and each time his presence brought something extra to his men when they needed it most. He was always willing to give the last ounce of his strength and the last full measure of courage and devotion to his comrades and to his Nation.
War is a terrible thing, wasting the young before they have a chance to reach their full potential. But there are moments, terrible in their danger and devastation, that can also bring out unimaginable courage and leadership that cannot be fully described; but once seen and felt, can never be forgotten.
It is of such soldiers like Lieutenant Colonel Urban and many of you that victory is made, not just in individual battles but in the ultimate conflict between the champions of justice and liberty and all those forces that are marshaled against them. Such men not only draw the full measure of capability 'from within themselves but call forth the best from those around them, inspiring in others the courage and the tenacity to go beyond the limits of endurance and sometimes even beyond the limits of hope, and to succeed in doing what, just a moment before, seemed to be impossible.
I deeply regret the delay of this ceremony for so many years, but I'm grateful, as President and as Commander in Chief, for the privilege of presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Colonel Urban. I'm grateful, too, for this reminder, so many years later, to our Nation of what freedom means, what it has cost us in the past, what really is at stake when we talk about the spirit of America, what might be demanded of us in the future to protect our Nation's honor and to preserve peace through strength.
As a people we need heroes, real heroes, who when tested excel and in doing so inspire others to reach for greatness within themselves. We need heroes not just for the victories that they make possible on the battlefield but in later days to remind us of what America at its best can be now and in the future—the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you very much.