Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. I want to thank Secretary Chuck Hagel, not only for the introduction, but, Chuck, for your lifetime of service, from sergeant in the Army to Secretary of Defense, but always a man who carries with you the memory of friends and fallen heroes from Vietnam. We're grateful to you.
I want to thank General Dempsey; Major General Linnington; Kathryn Condon, who has served Arlington with extraordinary dedication and grace and who will be leaving us, but we are so grateful for the work that she's done; for Chaplain Brainerd; Secretary Shinseki; all our guests. And most of all, to members of our Armed Services and our veterans; to the families and friends of the fallen who we honor today; to Americans from all across the country who have come to pay your respects: I have to say it is always a great honor to spend this Memorial Day with you at this sacred place where we honor our fallen heroes, those who we remember fondly in our memories and those known only to God.
Beyond these quiet hills, across that special bridge, is a city of monuments dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic. But it is here, on this hallowed ground, where we choose to build a monument to a constant thread in the American character: the truth that our Nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all and lay down their very lives to preserve and protect this land that we love.
That character, that selflessness, beats in the hearts of the very first patriots who died for a democracy they had never known and would never see. It lived on in the men and women who fought to hold our Union together and in those who fought to defend it abroad, from the beaches of Europe to the mountains and jungles of Asia. This year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of fighting in Korea, we offer a special salute to all those who served and gave their lives in the Korean war. And over the last decade, we've seen the character of our country again in the nearly 7,000 Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields and city streets half a world away.
Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in 9 years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq. Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home. Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that's progress for which we are profoundly grateful. And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan.
And so, as I said last week, America stands at a crossroads. But even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget, as we gather here today, that our Nation is still at war.
It should be self-evident. And in generations past, it was. And during World War II, millions of Americans contributed to the war effort: soldiers like my own grandfather; women like my grandmother, who worked the assembly lines. During the Vietnam war, just about everybody knew somebody—a brother, a son, a friend—who served in harm's way.
Today, it's different. Perhaps it's a tribute to our remarkable All-Volunteer Force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor. Perhaps it's a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and g ...
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