REMEMBERING THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY
November 11, 2005
This weekend, the country remembers those men and women who answered the call to serve their nation and, with honor, made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Originally declared "Armistice Day," each year local and national ceremonies mark the anniversary of Veterans' Day and call upon Americans to reflect on the difficult struggles this country has had and continues to endure in its quest for freedom and peace, and security of our homeland.
It is particularly important, however, that we remember not just those who have fallen in past wars, but keep in mind those troops who are currently serving throughout the world and those participating in the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the families they have left behind. Day in and day out, they demonstrate unwavering bravery to protect those who cannot defend themselves and an unparalleled commitment to promote democracy in regions where tyranny and oppression have long ruled.
Our armed services have achieved many successes in the Global War on Terror since its beginning in October 2001. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I had the privilege this August to witness first-hand the tremendous progress our military and humanitarian groups have made in Afghanistan. Given the opportunity to visit local schools and public works facilities, I was proud of the cultural contributions and infrastructure improvements coalition forces have brought to each country. From text books and telecommunications, to water sanitation systems and paved roadways, there continues to be positive, tangible results of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Equally compelling is the progress our servicemen and women have accomplished in bringing freedom and stability to the greater part of both countries. With the overwhelmingly strong voter turnout for open elections in both countries - fifty percent in Afghanistan in September and sixty-four percent in the Iraqi Constitutional referendum in October - the road to peaceful, democratic societies continues to move forward. Without the U.S.-led coalition, the brutal regimes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein would undeniably still be power.
However, with progress, there has been unfortunate loss of life from communities across the country, including South Jersey. As we recognize the selfless contributions of all veterans and current service personnel this month, we also remember our local heroes and those with close ties to our communities who have recently died in the line of duty: Army Staff Sergeant Thomas Walkup of Millville; Army Specialist Marc Seiden of Brigantine; Marine Lance Corporal Harry Swain IV of Vineland; Marine Corporal Sean Kelly of Pitman; Navy SEAL Petty Officer David Tapper of Atco; and Army Specialist Gennaro Pellegrini, whose parents reside in Wildwood.
This weekend, as communities celebrate the selfless contributions of our veterans throughout this nation's history, I will be reminiscent of the words of President Reagan; "We will always remember, We will always be proud, We will always be prepared, So we may always be free." The heroic service of our veterans is the reason we live in the greatest nation on the face of the earth.