REMARKS: OHIO FALLEN HEROES MEMORIAL DEDICATION CEREMONY
Thank you so much for inviting me to be with you for this special dedication ceremony. We come here today to honor and to remember the brave men and women who died fighting for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These courageous service members - with the many faces of Ohio - came from the smallest villages in our state and from the largest cities. Some came from our farms. Some were born here in Ohio and in America. Others came to this state and this country from many, many miles away.
Some were 18 or 19 years old. Some were in their 40s.
Some were Privates and Lance Corporals, while one was a Lieutenant Colonel. Some joined the military as a result of the September 11th attacks, while others planned on a career in the military from their youngest days, marching around as small children in their fathers' uniforms.
Some had seen a lot out of life, while for others - most of them, really - their lives had just begun.
All of them, though, shared something in common. All of them changed lives in countless ways, leaving enormous impacts on their families and their friends and their loved ones. Their absence leaves a gapping whole in the lives of those left behind. And while that makes it very hard, we also know that the world is a better place because these brave men and women were a part of it. It is a better place because they lived.
We are all so very fortunate to have had them in our lives for the all too brief time that we did. And for that, we are eternally grateful.
We, as citizens, will never be able to repay these Ohioans for their service. We know that when we lose a service member, there is a tear in the fabric that holds us all, as Americans, together, and there really is no way to repair that. President Theodore Roosevelt perhaps put it best when he said, "Their blood and their toil, their endurance and patriotism, have made us and all who come after us forever their debtors."
We are, indeed, in their debt.
I did not personally know any of these men and women, but I've spoken with many of their families, talked to many of their friends and comrades, and have read a great deal about each of them. They were all unique -- each with their own special story to tell.
One Marine worked as a police officer before going to Iraq. He would bring disco balls into his police cruiser to make his partner laugh and sometimes brought smiley faces into jail to entertain the inmates.
Another Marine was in the high school marching band. During one football game, he forgot his sousaphone and decided to march with the only available instrument in the band room - a banjo.
One soldier's parents remember their son following them around the house at a young age, with his arms out, saying, "Big hug, big hug."
Another young man was a delegate to Buckeye Boys' State - a prestigious honor for high school students.
Several enjoyed riding their dirt bikes and fixing up cars. Some played sports. Some were in drama club. Others liked to play games, such as Scrabble.
Many married their high school sweethearts.
All of them made of our lives just a little bit brighter. They made us smile. They filled their loved ones' lives with great joy and happiness.
This memorial stands as a moving tribute and a lasting testament to these men and women and to their courage, honor, and sacrifice. They have stood tall in the fight against tyranny, aggression, and terrorism. As John F. Kennedy once said, "A nation reveals itself not only by the men [and women] it produces, but also by the men [and women] it honors [and] remembers." And that - that is exactly what this memorial is all about. It is about honoring and remembering each of these truly unique, wonderful souls. Our Nation is proud of these Ohio men and women. They lived their lives well - with great purpose and commitment and love of family and country. And for that, we will never forget them.