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Remarks at the Memorial Service at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for American Servicemen Killed in Saudi Arabia

June 30, 1996

Governor Chiles, Congressman Scarborough, Lieutenant Governor MacKay, General Shalikashvili, Secretary White, Secretary Widnall, Under Secretary de Leon, General Fogleman, General Hawley, General Cranston, Colonel Dylewski, the chaplains, Chief Lowe; to those brave servicemen who were injured, we thank God for your presence here today; to the families of the 12 men who we honor today who died in the service of our Nation.

These men represented the best of America, and they gave America their best. They stepped forward to lead our mission for peace and freedom. They did so with courage, strength, and skill. As members of the Nomads, the 33d Fighter Wing, as communicators and mechanics, crew chiefs and technicians, they kept our aircraft flying, and they owned the skies. Time and again they gave up the comforts that most of us take for granted, traveling far from home and family to take up America's cause.

There is a passage in Isaiah in which God wonders, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Isaiah answers, "Here am I, Lord. Send me." These men we honor today said to America, "Send me."

We will remember them as patriots, but they were also husbands and fathers, sons and brothers, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. Some came from families with a proud tradition of military service. Some have brothers and sisters serving our military today. Some had dreamed of joining the Air Force since they were little boys.

All of them showed by the example of their lives the same spirit of service they brought to their careers. They were always among the first to lend a hand when someone was in need. They served as soccer coaches and Sunday school teachers. They helped the victims of hurricanes and volunteered as firemen. They loved their cars, their sports, their families, and their mission. One of them was on his third tour in Saudi Arabia. Another volunteered so a man with larger family obligations could stay home.

They were all very different, as I saw when I met with their families. They came from different regions, different ethnic groups, different religious and political backgrounds. But they were united by love of nation, mission, and family. They touched the lives of many other people, and because of them we all lead safer and better lives.

On behalf of the American people, let me say to their families and loved ones and to their friends in the Eglin community: We are grateful for their service. We stand with you in sorrow and in outrage. They were taken before their time, felled by the hands of hatred in an act whose savagery is matched only by its cowardice. We will not rest in our efforts to capture, prosecute, and punish those who committed this evil deed. But today, in the warm embrace of our faith, let us put aside our anger for a moment to remember and honor those who were lost, to find strength in their service, to thank God for the lives they lived, to continue the struggle for freedom and decency to which they devoted their lives.

We're blessed to live in a prosperous land in a time of peace, but we are not free from peril. While the modern world brings to all of us many new opportunities, it also leaves us more open to the forces of intolerance and destruction and especially to terrorism, so often rooted in ethnic and religious hatreds, because terrorists can strike anywhere, from the Tokyo subway to the streets of London, from the Holy Land to the World Trade Center in New York and Oklahoma City and now in Saudi Arabia.

My fellow Americans, during the long struggles of World War II and the cold war, America stood fast for freedom. In our time, terrorism is the enemy of peace and freedom. America must not and America will not be driven from the fight against terrorism. In this effort, every American must stand behind the men and women of our Armed Forces. Every American must stand against violence and hatred and stand for dignity and tolerance, at home as well as abroad. We must honor the memory of those we have lost by upholding the ideals for which they lived and the mission for which they gave their lives.

To the loved ones of these 12 fine men, I know there are no words to soothe the loss of a father or a husband, a brother or a son, a fiance or a dear friend. The rest of us can only hope that there is some solace for you in the pride and passion they brought to their work, the strength and decency they demonstrated every day, the love and respect they engendered and which surround you today, and the gratitude of their Nation.

Let us now praise these quiet American heroes who gave their lives in service to America. May they rest in peace, and may their names live on forever:

Technical Sergeant Daniel Cafourek

Sergeant Millard Dee Campbell

Senior Airman Earl Cartrette, Jr.

Technical Sergeant Patrick Fennig

Master Sergeant Kendall Kitson, Jr.

Technical Sergeant Thanh Gus Nguyen

Airman First Class Brent Marthaler

Airman First Class Brian McVeigh

Airman First Class Peter Morgera

Airman First Class Joseph Rimkus

Senior Airman Jeremy Taylor

Airman First Class Joshua Woody

Our Nomads have ceased their wandering. They have come home. May God embrace their souls. May God bless their families and their loved ones. And may God bless America's mission of peace and freedom, for which they gave the last full measure of their devotion.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:32 a.m. in the King Hangar. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Lawton Chiles and Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay of Florida; Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, USAF, Air Force Chief of Staff; Gen. Richard E. Hawley, USAF, Commander, Air Combat Command; Maj. Gen. Stewart E. Cranston, USAF, Commander, Air Force Development Test Center; and Col. Gary R. Dylewski, USAF, Commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Troy Lowe, USAF, Senior Enlisted Adviser, 33d Fighter Wing.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Memorial Service at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for American Servicemen Killed in Saudi Arabia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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