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Memorial Day Speech

May 29, 2006

Good morning.

Let me begin by acknowledging a few people here today.

John Armiger – thank you for holding this ceremony to honor our veterans year after year.

Governor Ehrlich and General Bruce Tuxill.

Lt. Col. William Lee, State Command Chaplain, MD Army National Guard;

Richard Patterson – President of the National Flag Day Foundation;

And to all of you here today: members of the Armed Forces, the National Guard, family and friends, members of the community; I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on this important day.

Four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln stood at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and said,

“It is for us the living…to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

Since these words were said so many years ago, millions of ordinary citizens have answered the call to service, making extraordinary sacrifices to uphold those same ideals that were defended at Gettysburg; ideals which have come to define our nation….the protection of liberty and freedom and the commitment to fight injustice.

And to me, what distinguishes Americans is both our belief that these ideals are universal and our commitment to defend these ideals, even when the stakes are high.

Marylanders are no exception.  Right now, over 4,000 people from our state are serving in uniform - 2,000 active duty servicemen and women and 2,000 National Guard and Reservists who are currently on active duty. 

Each and every one of you have honored us through your brave commitment to our country and for this, we have gathered here today to honor you - America’s veterans and your families, members of the Armed Services, those who died and those who were injured in the line of duty.

We thank you for your service and your sacrifices.
This Memorial Day has a special meaning for me.  The last time I was here on Memorial Day, my father Al Ruppersberger was one of the veterans being honored for his service in World War II.  My dad passed away two months ago. 

Like so many of you, he answered the call to duty and served in the Army Air Corp, while my mom went to work in the Domino Sugar Refining Company factory in the Port of Baltimore.

The Greatest Generation was exactly that – they defeated fascism and returned home to build the most powerful economy the world has ever seen.

Through their dedication and resolve to just “get the job done,” they made America what it is today and set a standard of excellence for our military.

To all of you who defended America at that critical time, and to those of you who have served our country since - in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -  I’d like extend my sincere gratitude.

Today we are involved in another war, but the world is much different for our brave servicemen and women.

The war we are fighting is not against a particular nation or ideology.

Today, America’s enemies often do not represent a specific country.

Instead, their allegiance is to terror. 

We are involved in a global fight to protect democracy at home and abroad.  The nature of war and the way we fight war is changing.  And in order to win this fight, we need seamless coordination of our intelligence community and support for our men and women in uniform. 

Our troops deserve our full backing – not just by honoring them with words as we are today – but by making sure they have the resources, equipment, and manpower they need to succeed.

And as always, we need to support veterans here at home. 

I am honored to serve this nation each and every day as a Member of Congress.  And I take that job very seriously.

I have been to Iraq and Afghanistan several times to meet with our troops and the intelligence community – most recently in the last 2 months.

It is important to recognize that they are serving with honor and patriotism. 

Whatever your position on the war, we must support always our troops and we must fulfill our commitments to them when they return home.

We made a promise to our veterans and we must stand behind our promise.

Unfortunately, some veterans’ benefits are under fire on Capitol Hill.

I am working with the Maryland Delegation to fight for full funding of veterans health care, for fair concurrent receipts, for a resolution to the survivor benefits plan… to make sure that our political leaders don’t just grandstand on military support but back it up with federal policies. 
I believe the greatest show of respect to our nation’s military is to take care of our veterans… all veterans… when they come home by funding the programs important to them… important to you.

And so today I ask that we join together in supporting our troops and veterans by fighting for them right here, as they have fought for us overseas.

To you, to your families, and in memory of so many lost… I thank each of you for your service and sacrifice.
Thank you and God bless America.