Obama Leads Americans in Observing Memorial Day

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The lessons of Memorial Day can be summed up in a few words, President Barack Obama said here today: “Brotherhood. Sacrifice. Love of country”

 

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 30, 2011 – The president spoke at the Memorial Amphitheatre by the Tomb of the Unknowns. It is a white marble paean to the sacrifices of generations of American service members.

In introducing the president, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that for too many Americans, Memorial Day is just a respite from work. “But we must never forget that it is, foremost, an occasion to reflect, remember and to honor the brave men and women who have fought and died for us,” he said.

It also is a day to remember the sacrifices of military family members, “who in recent years have borne the brunt of repeated deployments, long partings and the fear of receiving the knock on the door with the worst of all possible news,” Gates said.

The secretary urged all Americans to remember that service members “deserve our recognition, our respect and our conscious gratitude. Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman wearing the uniform today enlisted or reenlisted knowing they would serve in time of war.”

The secretary will leave office at the end of June. “I know this will be my final opportunity to stand and speak in this hallowed place and pay tribute to the fallen,” he said. “It is up to us to be worthy of their sacrifice – in the decisions we make, the priorities we set, the support we provide to troops, veterans, and their families. For the rest of my life, I will keep these brave patriots and their loved ones in my heart and in my prayers.”

Obama spoke of the privilege it is to commemorate Memorial Day with thousands who have come to pay their respects, including service members and Gold Star families.

“To those of you who mourn the loss of a loved one today, my heart goes out to you,” he said. “This day is about you, and the fallen heroes that you loved. And it’s a day that has meaning for all Americans, including me. It’s one of my highest honors, it is my most solemn responsibility as president, to serve as commander-in-chief of one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known.”

The responsibility carries a special weight, Obama said, adding that he sometimes receives letters in response to his condolence letters. “I received one such letter from an Army veteran named Paul Tarbox after I visited Arlington a couple of years ago,” he said. “Paul saw a photograph of me walking through Section 60, where the heroes who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan lay, by a headstone marking the final resting place of Staff Sergeant Joe Phaneuf.

“Joe, he told me, was a friend of his, one of the best men he’d ever known, the kind of guy who could have the entire barracks in laughter, who was always there to lend a hand, from being a volunteer coach to helping build a playground. It was a moving letter, and Paul closed it with a few words about the hallowed cemetery where we are gathered here today.

“He wrote, ‘The venerable warriors that slumber there knew full well the risks that are associated with military service, and felt pride in defending our democracy. The true lesson of Arlington is that each headstone is that of a patriot. Each headstone shares a story.'”

Each of them adds honor to what it means to be a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman, Obama said. “Each is a link in an unbroken chain that stretches back to the earliest days of our republic – and on this day, we memorialize them all.”

The nation remembers the earliest patriots who died giving America independence and those who died saving the Union, the president said. “We memorialize those who gave their lives on the battlefields of our times — from Normandy to Manila, Inchon to Khe Sanh, Baghdad to Helmand, and in jungles, deserts, and city streets around the world.

“What bonds this chain together across the generations, this chain of honor and sacrifice, is not only a common cause – our country’s cause – but also a spirit captured in a Book of Isaiah, a familiar verse, mailed to me by the Gold Star parents of Second Lieutenant Mike McGahan. ‘When I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.'”

The nation and every American owes a debt to these men and women that cannot be repaid. “But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must,” he said. “We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts, and heeding the example they set. And we must honor it as a nation by keeping our sacred trust with all who wear America’s uniform, and the families who love them; by never giving up the search for those who’ve gone missing under our country’s flag or are held as prisoners of war; by serving our patriots as well as they serve us — from the moment they enter the military, to the moment they leave it, to the moment they are laid to rest.”

The president spoke about two Naval Academy roommates who grew as close as brothers – Travis Manion and Brendan Looney. After graduation, Manion, a Marine, went to Iraq and Looney, a Navy SEAL, went to Korea.

“On April 29, 2007, while fighting to rescue his fellow Marines from danger, Travis was killed by a sniper,” Obama said. “Brendan did what he had to do – he kept going. He poured himself into his SEAL training, and dedicated it to the friend that he missed. He married the woman he loved. And, his tour in Korea behind him, he deployed to Afghanistan. On September 21st of last year, Brendan gave his own life, along with eight others, in a helicopter crash.

“Heartbroken, yet filled with pride, the Manions and the Looneys knew only one way to honor their sons’ friendship – they moved Travis from his cemetery in Pennsylvania and buried them side by side here at Arlington.”

The Inside Phoneys

The Washington Post December 27, 1990 | TONY KORNHEISER People often ask my advice on how they can break into the sports business. I tell them, “Be 7-3. Look how it’s worked for Randy Breuer.” Unfortunately, not everyone can follow this advice. So for those of you built a little closer to the ground, I urge you to:

Get a telephone.

All you need is a phone, and you too can have a lucrative career in sports television. You can break into the growth industry of the sports business. You can be . . . an “Insider.” You’ve seen them on TV on the weekend studio shows and on draft day, rating players and spreading gossip. “I just talked to George Steinbrenner on his car phone. Though he’s not supposed to have anything to do with running the Yankees anymore, he’s totally disenchanted with Don Mattingly. Right now, he’s driving to Mickey Mantle’s house in Dallas to try to talk Mickey into a comeback as a DH.” Wow!

Or, “I just talked to my source with the Vikings. He says they’re going to fire Jerry Burns this weekend, and their top choice to replace him is Hayden Fox, the coach of Minnesota State on the TV series `Coach.’ Fox would be an unorthodox move, but my source says Herschel Walker is all for it.” Wow!

Being an Insider allows you to say these things unchallenged. And the great news is that anyone can become an Insider. You don’t just have to be some big shot GM such as Bob Ferry or Bobby Beathard. Friends of mine, good print reporters such as Ralph Wiley and Pete Vecsey, did it. People nobody has ever heard of, such as Fred “If I Got Any More Wrong I’d Be On Radio” Edelstein and Mel Kiper Jr., do it too. They get big money, big exposure and long limousines. (Don’t you think Mel Kiper Sr. is kicking himself for not doing it? He’s stuck out in some trailer park and his kid is a star.) Sounds great, Tony. How do I become an Insider? web site how many plays did shakespeare write

Get a telephone.

(This is why Larry King was a classic Insider. Who’s on the phone more than him? “Tacoma, Washington, you’re on with Carrie Fisher. . . . Topeka, Kansas. . . . “) Because the trick is to be on the phone when the host asks you a question. He’ll say something like: “Big news out of Buffalo this week, where Jim Kelly’s cast was removed – and the orthopedist had mistakenly grafted Kelly’s pancreas to his shin bone. How will that affect the Bills’ chances in the playoffs, Will?” This is your cue. It’s imperative that you are holding the phone up against your ear, like you’re actually on a call. You mumble something and quickly hang up. Then you turn to the camera and say, “Well, I just talked to Marv Levy, and he said Kelly was surprised, but he’s in great spirits, and if they can fit him in a soft cast to protect the pancreas, he could be ready to take some snaps by Wednesday.” Wow!

And do people really believe this?

Not everyone. Not more than 25 million. But hey, there were a few Doubting Thomases when Columbus said the world was round. (“Chris, sweetheart, what are ya, nuts? You’ll sail off the edge of the earth, and then who’s gonna make the payments on these boats?”) And was he actually on the phone with Marv Levy?

Ten minutes before kickoff? What do you think? (“Coach, it’s the Insiders. I told them you were going over last-minute changes in the game plan, but they said to ask you `pretty please with a cherry on top.’ “) In all likelihood the phone isn’t even plugged in, or if it is, it goes to the control room. It’s a prop. That’s why you never hear anybody say: “Uh, Bob, I’m on hold here while Coach Smith is in the bathroom. Can you come back to me later in the show?” At one time I thought whoever was on the phone was calling Domino’s, but I don’t think so now, because if they were, they’d have asked Tom Monaghan how he could have let that gasbag, know-nothing meany Bo Schembechler fire Ernie Harwell. this web site how many plays did shakespeare write

Personally, I prefer the concept of the Insider to the sideline reporter. I love the phone bit; I’m hoping Vecsey will recycle the Chevy Chase routine from the old “Saturday Night Live” news, and let the camera catch him with the phone in his ear, whispering, “Sure I liked it, but you didn’t say the whipped cream would be so cold, and . . . oops, gotta go, bye.” Sideline reporters are wearing me out. Any schmo with a blazer can stick a microphone in a player’s face and go: “Tyrone, 45 yards straight up the gut, awesome. Your thoughts.” Half the time when they cut to these guys, we miss a touchdown. They’re all camera hogs. They launch into a dissertation about a sprained ankle like they’re Sir Richard Attenborough: “I’m here, knee deep in mud by the Clemson bench, pondering what the limits of human endurance might be. This man, this swift, mercurial runner, has just been stung by one of fate’s cruel darts . . . ” and blah-blah-blah. How many plays will he miss, bozo? Is he out for the game? Tim Brant used to drive me wild. Every single report, football or basketball, began the same way, with a breathless Brant saying, “I just spoke to {the trainer} and he said, `Timmy, I gotta tell ya, we’re flat ready to play.’ ” Or, “I just spoke to {the injured cornerback} and he said, `Timmy, I gotta tell ya, it’s my hamstring.’ ” Timmy! I haven’t heard that name so much since “Lassie.” How come everybody’s on a first name basis with this guy? He must have the most recognizable face in America. Tim Brant and Bart Simpson. What’s next, his own rap dance?

I used to want to be a sideline reporter. Not anymore. Now, I’m practicing holding the phone. The future’s not on the sideline. It’s inside. I just talked to Terry O’Neil, and he told me so.

TONY KORNHEISER

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