Remarks delivered on Saturday evening in Arlington, Virginia, at the Memorial Day weekend seminar and grief camp of TAPS — the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME be a part of your family. This is the most important family on the planet right now. There is a First Family on Pennsylvania Avenue, but this is the real first family. The family of those who have paid the ultimate price to keep us free and dignified and alive.
A bad day for me is when I get stuck in traffic or have a toothache or notice that I have gained weight or my teenage son is surly.
A bad day for you is realizing that the only man or woman you have ever loved is gone for this lifetime.
A difficult day for me with my wife is when she’s out at her bridge lesson and comes home late so my dinner is late.
A difficult day for you is when you wake up from a dream that your husband or wife or son or daughter or mother or father was alive and laughing with you and realize you’ll never see that loveable person again for the rest of your natural lives.
A bad day for an ordinary American is seeing the stock market go down or watching his son sneak a beer.
A bad day for you is a sort of loneliness, a hopeless, cruel loneliness that cuts right to the bone like the cut of a knife, that tells you that there is no one there to hug you, no one to kiss you, no one to fix the kids’ bikes, no one to wipe away the tears that just come uncontrollably when you least expect them.
A bad day for me is getting stuck in an airport security line. A bad day for you is being on the plane alone.
Yet your loneliness has meaning. Your loneliness, your pain, is the mortar and concrete that anchors the nation. The sacrifice your loved ones made, the sacrifice you made, that your kids made, is what makes the whole American world safe from terror.
Your loved ones’ lives had what we all want: meaning. The knowledge you were doing something big for others. That is EVERYTHING in life.
Wall Street does not have it. Hollywood does not have it. They’re just in it for the fame and the money.
Your loved ones were in it for unselfishness, for kindness, for love of one’s fellow man. There is no higher meaning on this earth.
The media try to rob your husbands’ and wives’ and kids’ lives of meaning saying this war is not about anything.
They’re wrong and they say what they say because they don’t see the truth. They print a story on the front page about Marines killing civilians in a town in Iraq and if they did, it was wrong. But the big media never report a MARINE throwing himself on a bomb to protect an Iraqi child, or a Marine giving his life to rid a town of murderers or a Marine or an Army man or woman or a Navy Seal or a Coast Guardsman offering up his life so that Iraqi human beings can have the same freedoms and rights we take for granted here in America.
The media are like grave robbers, robbing you of the certain knowledge that your spouses gave their lives for something deeply worthwhile: human dignity.
Your loved ones’ lives and deaths had as much meaning at the lives and deaths of every American who died for freedom from Valley Forge to the Battle of the Bulge to Cho-Sin Reservoir to the Cu Chi tunnels to the Balkans to Kabul, Afghanistan, to Falluja, Iraq.
And if the media doesn’t know it, every other American does. This is a very difficult fight, but the ordinary American knows what your loved ones have done and respects them.
Your families, your loved one, your children have more respect than Sean Penn and Barbra Streisand and the Dixie Chicks all put together times a million. And the media like to criticize because they know — in their hearts — that they will never have the guts that the man and woman in uniform have. I think media envy of your loved ones’ courage has a lot do with media mockery of the war.
To heck with them. Your husbands are the real stars. Your wives and kids are the real stars. They burn brightly forever as long as there are free men and women and the longing for human freedom burns bright in the human heart.
John F. Kennedy said that here on earth, God’s work is our work. That doesn’t mean Wall Street’s work. It doesn’t mean the Washington Post‘s work. It doesn’t mean Hollywood’s work. It means the work you guys do and the work of your husbands and wives and kids. Living and dying for your fellow man. That is God’s work in the deepest sense, and God bless you for what you do, and God keep you until you are with your loved ones again.
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