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Revolutionary War Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, before I talk about the situation in Iraq, I want to mention something that has gone on in my City of Philadelphia which I think deserves recognition during Veterans Day; that is, a situation with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the Revolutionary War. That is a memorial which was erected in Philadelphia in 1954. There was an eternal flame added to that memorial back in 1976 during our bicentennial year. About 10 years ago that flame went out, and for 10 years the City of Philadelphia and the government of the City of Philadelphia refused to relight it--- to fix the flame.

It wasn't until the efforts of Larry Mendte, a journalist for the CBS station WKYW television in Philadelphia, and the work he did in bringing this issue to light--other journalists have brought this to light in the past--but to Larry's credit, he did not give up. And they continued to run story after story and hound the city of Philadelphia to try to finally fix this monument and fix this eternal flame.

I wish to give thanks to the veterans community in Philadelphia, to WKYW, to Larry, and ultimately I have to congratulate Mayor Street. After an enormous amount of pressure put on his administration, Mayor Street finally decided to fix the flame.

Once the flame was fixed, the National Park Service took that flame over and will make sure that the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Revolutionary War, where so many died in the city of Philadelphia, will burn as an eternal flame.

As we all know, this Friday is Veterans Day, a day when Americans pay tribute to the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces. There is no group of Americans to which we owe more than those who have fought to protect the freedoms that are the very heart of our Nation.

The truth is that our veterans, both past and present, should be honored every day of the year. We would not be here today, enjoying all the blessings we have if it were not for the sacrifices of those who took up arms to defend America. And so, I rise today to recognize the efforts of the residents of my home state who have fought to ensure that those who passed away in service to our country are remembered, day in and day out, with the reverence they deserve.

The city of Philadelphia, so central to the American Revolution, became the final resting place for thousands of Revolutionary soldiers. Many of these brave men, America's first patriots, were laid to rest in mass, unmarked graves throughout the Philadelphia region. To honor these soldiers, and the millions more who have fought for our Nation since its inception, a war memorial was erected in Philadelphia in 1954. Ever since, this monument, known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, has stood as a tribute to those who first made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of America.

During the bicentennial celebration in 1976, an eternal flame was added to the monument. This flame, a symbol of the enduring spirit of the soldiers that passed, was to burn continuously in their honor. Yet over time, the flame was neglected and allowed to die out. For the last few years, this monument has stood incomplete, and as a tribute to our soldiers, insufficient.

Thankfully, Philadelphia is a city filled with conscientious, concerned citizens. On June 6 of this year, Mr. Larry Mendte, a journalist for the CBS station WKYW, reported that the flame had gone out. The response from viewers was immediate. The next night, a veteran of the gulf war traveled to the monument and lit her own flame, a flame that would certainly not wane due to neglect, thus beginning a candlelight vigil that would be joined by many others.

Mr. Mendte, along with his colleagues at CBS, would not let this story disappear. He tracked down city officials, demanded an explanation, and refused to accept their attempts to brush him off. On June 13, merely seven days after the initial story was broadcast, the city began the repair process. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Mendte, WKYW, and the many concerned Philadelphia residents who responded to this story, over 100 individuals were able to witness the reigniting of the eternal flame on June 29.

An inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier reads, ``Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.'' Freedom is a light, a light that still shines bright throughout the world thanks to the effort and sacrifice of American soldiers. Today in Philadelphia, a different light is shining, once again, in recognition of these soldiers and what they have given for us.

I commend Mr. Mendte and his colleagues at WKYW for bringing attention to this issue and pushing for its resolution, as well as the residents of Philadelphia who responded, in force, with their support. Most of all, I thank America's veterans, who have given more than we can ever repay, and deserve to be honored and recognized at every opportunity. The eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a fitting tribute, and I am proud to represent such dedicated, patriotic citizens who worked so hard for its restoration.

Congratulations to all involved in the city of Philadelphia.

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