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Prepared Memorial Day remarks of Rep. Greg Walden


Location: Central Point, OR

Please find below the remarks, as prepared for delivery, of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) for the Memorial Day ceremony at the Oregon Fallen War Heroes Memorial in Central Point on Monday, May 31 at 9 a.m.

Thank you, Dennis. Good morning Senator Wyden, participants, volunteers, families and friends.

Today marks the second anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Oregon Fallen War Heroes Memorial. I commend Dennis, a Vietnam War veteran, for his vision on the project. While I was unable to join him for the groundbreaking in 2008, I am honored to join him today on this solemn occasion when we honor those who have served our country in the cause of freedom.

Inscribed on the columns before you are the names of the more than 5,800 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and merchant mariners who gave their lives in defense of this country's freedom since Oregon became a state in 1859.

Looking at the names, I am reminded of the poignant words of General John Pershing, the commander of American forces in World War I and the first chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

He said of the fallen: "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

He was right. Time will not dim the glory of their deeds, because we refuse to forget that behind each name is an extraordinary story of sacrifice and bravery.

One of the names is Army Corporal Jessica Ellis from Baker City, Oregon. Jessica was a medic in the elite 101st Airborne. In April 2008, during a night mission on her second tour of duty in Iraq, an IED hit the Buffalo that she and five other soldiers were riding in. Jessica sustained cuts and bruises, but refused to stay on the sidelines.

Her father, Steve Ellis, said later: "She went right back out there. What a brave thing."

Three weeks later, likely before her cuts and bruises were even fully healed, another IED detonated that took Jessica's life.

Her father said that "(Jessica) knew the risks, but she felt that if she didn't go, she was letting her buddies down. She felt a commitment to be there for them."

What a brave thing indeed.

That bravery is the common thread that binds every patriot who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this great country, from the fields of Gettysburg to the woodlands of the Argonne Forest, from the beaches of Normandy to the seas and islands of the South Pacific, from the jungles of Vietnam to the streets of Baghdad and mountains of Afghanistan.

Across the world today, Americans stop, remember, and pay their respects. They do so with their families at parades on Main Street, with their communities at memorials like this, or with the thoughts and prayers of an entire nation at a hallowed place like Arlington National Cemetery.

Today, at that cemetery a continent away, the spirit of southern Oregon is in full bloom. In 1999, I helped plant the first "Veterans Honor Roses" -- from Jackson and Perkins -- in a memorial garden at Arlington National Cemetery.

The roses, which bloom each year, serve as a living and lasting tribute not only to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but to all veterans who wear the nation's uniform.

Veterans…like those of the Oregon National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team who, just over a month ago, returned home from Iraq. The 2,700 Oregon National Guard troops who shipped overseas and into harm's way represented the largest deployment of Oregon servicemembers since World War II.

We must pause to remember two members of the 41st Brigade Combat Team, based in Clackamas, who did not come home--Specialist Taylor Marks, from Monmouth, Oregon and Sergeant Earl Werner from Amboy, Washington, who gave their lives in Rashad, Iraq last August. Their sacrifice in the battle against the enemies of freedom will not be forgotten.

And make no mistake, the battle to keep our country safe from threats both domestic and foreign is still very much ongoing.

The Christmas Day bomber and the failed Times Square plot are recent chilling reminders that terrorists remain intent on destroying our free way of life.

But they will not succeed.

They will not succeed because our men and women in uniform comprise the most professional and effective fighting force in the world.

They will not succeed because of our defenders on the homefront -- the police, firefighters, and first responders -- who every day remain vigilant and prepared to put themselves in harm's way.

They will not succeed because this country won't let them.

I want to read the words of Debbie Lee, the mother of Marc Alan Lee, a native of my hometown of Hood River and the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq on August 2, 2006.

"A huge hole is left in my life as I think of my son," Debbie wrote. "Yet I am so proud of this young man whose name means "Mighty Warrior.' His selfless character allowed him to make the choice to give his life so that others could live. He stood in the direct line of fire three times that day to defend his buddies but he didn't do that just for them. He did that for you and for me and this country he so loved. That same character runs true for those that we remember on this Memorial Day."

We are free because of heroes like Marc Alan Lee, Jessica Ellis, Taylor Marks, Earl Werner, and the rest of the heroes whose names are inscribed on these columns.

Their sacrifice mattered.

And time will never dim the glory of their deeds.

Thank you for coming today. God bless America.

Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.

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