Delivers Keynote Speech at Fort Logan National Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony
Denver, CO – Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, delivered the following remarks honoring the lives and memories of America’s fallen soldiers at the Fort Logan National Cemetery Memorial Day Commemoration:
Thank you, everyone, for being here today, and for allowing me the opportunity to share a few words on this important day. Thank you to the Associated Veterans of Colorado, the Ladies Auxiliaries in attendance, Joseph Turnbach and the staff of the Fort Logan National Cemetery, and all of you here today.
And please join me in recognizing the musical contributions of the Colorado VFW Band and the Littleton Community Band as well. Thank you for being here.
It seems only fitting that we find ourselves here today, in this cemetery that bears the name of General John Logan, a veteran of Lincoln’s Army in the Civil War.
I say this not simply because of the service rendered by General Logan as a member of our Armed Forces, but because of the important role he played establishing this day as one devoted to the memory of America’s fallen soldiers.
After the dust of the Civil War had settled and Americans sought to rebuild a Union torn by the ravages of armed insurrection, General Logan, then National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a proclamation establishing this day as one on which survivors of the war “would honor the memory of their departed comrades.”
In his proclamation, issued nearly one hundred years before President Lyndon Johnson would officially establish this day as a National Day of remembrance, General Logan said, “Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
Logan’s words were not only a reminder, to all Americans, of the true cost of freedom, but a warning to his and future generations to never forget the sacrifice of those who have borne the true cost of battle; words that we should remember and to which we should work to provide deeper meaning to here today.
We must remember these words if we are to reconnect with who we are as a nation and a people; if we are to instill a shared understanding among ourselves and among those who will come after us of how much we owe to America’s veterans. It is a responsibility we all share – a sacred trust between citizen and soldier that all of us, as Americans, must work to honor and preserve.
It is especially important to remember this bond – this solemn obligation – in trying times such as these; a time when a political conversation in Washington too often appeals to our differences rather than the common values and aspirations we all share as Americans.
One thing all of us should agree on – one thing all of us must be able to agree on – is the need to ensure a grateful nation honors the lives of those who sacrificed so much, in some cases everything, to protect it.
Just as our military men and women are united by the cause of freedom, so too are we united by our responsibility to secure the comfort of those who return from war and to honor the legacy of those who, sadly, never make it home.
We have worked, together, hard to fulfill that responsibility. Because we know that as we pay homage to those who have died, we must not forget our responsibility to honor those we are fortunate to have among us today.
We’ve made an historic increase in the health care of our veterans, including our wounded warriors. Groundbreaking budget reforms will allow the VA to better manage and plan for the future. Mental health counseling and services have been made more available to our veterans when they need it, where they need it.
Here in Colorado, after years of delay, we finally broke ground on a stand-alone, state of the art VA Hospital at the Fitzsimons Campus in Aurora. And we have fought to expand our existing capacity and build a national veterans cemetery in southern Colorado – something the Administration committed to doing just this year.
But our obligation must include a commitment to military families as well – the spouses and children who sacrifice along with their loved ones. That is why we have worked hard to provide for the families and caregivers who share in the cost of battle and tend to their loved ones every day.
But the work we do on behalf of our veterans and their families is work that is never done.
It is work we, as beneficiaries of their service and sacrifice, must continue in the years and decades to come. But as we strive to make sure needs are met and promises kept, we must be sure that the work we do is informed by the voices, ideas and aspirations of the men and women our work is intended to serve.
During the last month, I have travelled across our state, visiting with veterans in both urban and rural communities to hear first hand their concerns and their ideas on how we can better honor their service; how we can make sure this nation is always there for our military men and women just as they have always been there for us.
I am reminded of a quote inscribed into the marble at Arlington National Cemetery; a quote that speaks to the ideals that drive a man or woman to enlist, to serve, to defend their country, and, in some cases, to die for the country they loved – the country, they believed in.
It reads, “Not for fame or reward, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all – and died.”
It is impossible not to be moved by these words – words that convey all too clearly that which has driven so many throughout our history to heed the call to service.
It is the same call heard by those who, in the face of armed insurrection, fought to uphold our bonds of affection and preserve a Union. It is the call heard by the men who marched across Europe and Asia and gave their lives so that others could live theirs free from the threat of tyranny and intolerance.
It is a legacy of service forged by generation after generation of Americans; a legacy enhanced and preserved by those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
When so many throughout our history pursued the path self interest, these brave men and women pursued a cause greater than self, greater than any one person. A cause every generation of Americans before us has fought for and fulfilled – a cause driven by the need to leave more, not less opportunity, for those that follow.
It is a cause over 1 million Americans before us have given their lives to advance. And it is their lives – their sacrifice – that we honor today and we will teach our children to honor in the years ahead.
So as we stand here today, in this place, in this cemetery, let us answer General Logan’s call. Let us ensure the lives and memories of those who gave everything are never forgotten – and always appreciated – by those who live today.
Let us ensure that, “no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
To the veterans from every era in our nation’s history, we thank you.
To the service members who continue to serve in our military today, we will not fail you.
To the military families who support them every step of the way, we will support you.
And to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, who gave their lives to defend and protect the country we love – the country we believe in – we will never forget you.
God bless you all. And God bless the United States of America.