We stand here in the presence of greatness - greatness in the form of the names engraved on the wall here at Memorial Plaza.
Nearly 2,700 names.
Every one representing a lost son or daughter, a dearly-missed father, mother or brother.
Each name marks missed birthdays, graduations, walks down the aisle and hours of lost laughter with loved ones gone too soon.
These individuals sacrificed everything they had and everything they were for love of country.
They gave their all in dedication to the principles that continue to make this the greatest country in the world.
Today, we gather around their memory, just as people are gathering at monuments in cities large and small across every state, expressing their appreciation and their enduring gratitude for those who gave their lives so that we can live free.
America has always been blessed with people willing to step forward in times of trouble, willing to put their own lives on the line to confront tyranny, to stand face-to-face against the most dangerous people in history and tell them "Not on my watch."
It's been that way from our earliest days as a nation when America's potential for greatness was still very fragile and vulnerable to attack from any corner of the globe.
From Valley Forge to the Battle of New Orleans, from the trenches of World War I to the Battles of Fallujah, our nation's best and brightest have answered the call to defend freedom, and the American way, against all threats.
It was thanks to their valiant efforts that the "Great Experiment" that is the United States has succeeded for more than two centuries.
We've survived to inspire others, and spread the principles that have made our republic the greatest nation on earth, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, justice, freedom and equal opportunity for all.
We've proven it can be done.
The price of that success, all too often, has been the blood of patriots.
That was certainly the case when my father's generation, the Greatest Generation, turned back Nazi aggression in Europe and Africa, liberating untold numbers of prisoners from Nazi death camps that were as close to hell as anything ever seen on this earth.
They also successfully defeated a Japanese nation that thought a surprise attack might demoralize us before war was even declared or a shot even fired.
Like many foes before them, and since, they severely underestimated our national resolve and our determination to do what's right, no matter the cost.
Then came what was called a "Cold War," but it didn't feel much different from the regular kind of war to Americans fighting in Korea...and eventually Vietnam.
They fought and bled for our country, and our ideals, just the same as any other hero, even if, at the time, our nation was far from unified in its regard for those who served.
Thankfully, we've come to realize the error of our ways, and today appropriately celebrate the members of our military for what they've gone through on our behalf.
Today we recognize that there is no higher form of public service than wearing the uniform of one's country.
While there are many forms of giving back to your community, to me, those who face incoming fire to set other people free exist on an entirely different level.
Admiral Nimitz was referring to those who fought on Iwo Jima when he famously said "Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue."
The truth of it is, that phrase can apply to anyone who's served in combat anywhere or anytime.
It's certainly true of our troops today.
The same principles that have made our nation great have continued to make us a target for those who hate, who use fear and death to spread their own twisted view of the world.
Today in Afghanistan, and in places all over the world we may not even know about, our brave men and women continue to fight the War on Terror, becoming part of the American tradition of taking up arms to defend others.
Many of them, like many I've visited with over the last decade, will come home facing long roads back from debilitating injuries, some of the injuries visible, and some not.
All too many will not come home at all.
Memorial Day is an essential part of the American experience, and a fitting tribute to our war dead.
At its inception, it was called Decoration Day, a time to scatter flowers on the graves of fallen warriors.
Today, let us carry on that tradition, bringing not only flowers, but also the accolades of a new generation, as we commemorate such immeasurable sacrifice.
Our challenge is to live our lives in a fashion that acknowledges, and honors, the sacrifices of those who fought for us, the sacrifices of the 2,700 named here and the untold numbers elsewhere in the United States.
Our challenge is to live up to the memory of each hometown hero and pay honor to the legacy that lives on within every family.
Thank you again for being here today.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless Texas, and this nation we love so much.