May 28, 2013
Fernley, NV - Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks at the Memorial Day Ceremony in Fernley today:
For the past few weeks I’ve been reading the third volume in William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill. I am now in the first six months of 1942. Let’s travel back to those dark days when our victory against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was not foreordained, when, in fact, the Axis was winning the war.
In the Pacific, the US had no battleships left, and the Japanese outnumbered us in aircraft carriers more than three to one. Tens of thousands of Allied prisoners were held by Japan, and fully a third of captured Americans would die from their mistreatment. U-boats were sinking hundreds of American vessels just off our coasts with impunity; the Gulf Coast beaches were black with oil from sunken tankers.
In North Africa, Rommel was driving towards Egypt, the Royal Navy had been run out of the Indian Ocean, and it appeared a certainty that Japan and Germany would link up in Iran, and cut off all British oil supplies. German armor drove through the Caucasus oil fields, Leningrad was under siege, and Moscow under severe threat.
And yet, in those first six months of 1942, hundreds of thousands of young American men waited in lines outside recruiting offices to enlist for war service, tens of thousands of young American women fought to enlist, to serve their country in her hour of need, factory workers served in rotating 24 hour shifts to produce weapons of war, and every citizen, young or old, rich or poor, of all races and creeds, strained to do what they could to ensure our survival as a beacon of freedom.
Many of those of whom we speak are gone now, and those who survive are in their late eighties and nineties. They join the long, shadowy line of those who went before, stretching back though the doughboys of World War One, the boys in Blue and Gray, the soldiers of 1812 and the Revolution. But that line also stretches forward, into Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In each war, young Americans have fought and died, not for glory but for the security of their homes, not for medals but for the love of their comrades in arms, not for parades at home, but for the respect this nation should, and rightly must accord their memory.
Very recently, a friend of mine went to a commissioning ceremony for a young Marine who served as a non-com in Iraq and Afghanistan. On that happy day, before his family and friends, just before he became an officer, he stopped and asked those assembled to stand in silence to remember a fellow sergeant who he had just learned had died the day before from an IED in Afghanistan. That death in combat is present in the lives of our military every day, whether they are at home, deployed, or waiting for the next fight. They know, we must know, the value of memory, of honoring those we have lost, and their surviving family members, their widows, orphans, parents, brothers and sisters, both of the blood, and of the service.
We must remember what they have done for us, what they have given us, what we must give back to them in terms of memory, yes, but also in terms of our service to this country we all love. When we place our political disagreements in that perspective, they dwindle to insignificance. Given the sacrifice of their lives for this, our beloved country, surely we can sacrifice some of our parochial partisan interests to reach common ground for the common good.
Please join me in a moment of silence to remember that young Marine’s sergeant who he could not forget, and to remember all who, we cannot forget gave, their lives that we might be free, to remember their sacrifices on this Day of Memory.