KENNEDY INTRODUCES RESOLUTION HONORING AMERICANS KILLED IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a resolution to honor the sacrifice of the American service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The resolution honors the 4,009 American men and women who have been killed in Iraq, and the 487 who lost their lives in Afghanistan. The legislation lists by name, rank, and hometown each of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and honors the ultimate sacrifice that these men and women made for their country.
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Mr. President, the war in Iraq has deeply divided our country. But whatever our views about the war, we know that our soldiers are serving nobly under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and that far too many of them are making the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
The war continues to impose an enormous human toll on our soldiers, their families, and their loved ones.
Our men and women in uniform have served with great courage and honor for five years, and last week, during the recess of Congress, we reached a sad milestone - the loss of 4,000 service men and women in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. An additional 30,000 service men and women have been wounded.
We have also lost nearly 500 service men and women in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
This loss of life is deeply distressing and the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to be devastating to families and communities around our nation. We honor their service, and we pray that God's grace and mercy may ease the anguish of those they have left behind.
It is fitting, therefore, that today we honor and remember the courageous men and women who gave the last full measure of their devotion to our country in these wars. From Lexington and Concord and Gettysburg, to Normandy and Iwo Jima, to Korea and Vietnam, to Iraq and Afghanistan today, these heroes are part of a long line of courageous patriots who stood their ground with uncommon valor and sacrificed for all of us.
Since the terrorist attack by Al Qaeda on September 11th, millions of Americans have proudly and voluntarily defended our country and our Constitution by serving in our armed forces, our reserves, and our National Guard. Their devotion to duty is beyond question, and their valor is proven.
They volunteered to serve and help us meet the immense challenge we face. They knew the vast danger to life and limb, and were well aware that at any moment, they might make the ultimate sacrifice. And as of today, 4,496 have made that sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They were all patriots. They put themselves in harm's way to protect us all, and because of their dedication and sacrifice, we continue to enjoy the freedoms we cherish in our democracy.
Each of these men and women has a poignant story to tell. Just as poignant are the fond memories of their loved ones here at home.
I know something of that feeling. I was twelve years old when my mother became a Gold Star Mother. It still seems like only yesterday when that knock on our door came in 1944, and we learned that my oldest brother Joe had been lost in World War II.
I know there is no easy way to mend these broken hearts - no way to lift the almost unbearable burden from the families and friends of those we lost.
We mourn the loss of these heroes. We honor their sacrifice, and extend our deepest condolences to their families. Words cannot ease the grief of losing a loved one, but I hope that the families may find some comfort in the words of Abraham Lincoln in the famous letter he sent to a bereaved mother during the Civil War.
"Dear Madam," he wrote, "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and the lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."
The consequences of the decisions we make here in Congress profoundly affect our military, their families, and the communities they have left. We have an obligation to our soldiers to make sensible decisions that will not place them needlessly in harm's way.
It's fitting that we now pause to recognize, remember and honor those who have lost their lives fighting far from home for our grateful nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.