Remarks by Secretary Robert Wilkie - Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Robert Wilkie

National D-Day Memorial
Bedford, VA
June 6, 2019

Distinguished guests and warriors:

Ronald Reagan said, in 1984, that it is an odd thing that we do to honor those who died defending us in that war long ago. He said our imagination plays a trick. We see those who have survived as old and wise, but many of those who died were just boys, and on that day, in 1944, they gave up two lives. The one on the beach and the one that they would have led had they come back. They gave up the chance to be husbands, fathers, grandfathers, teachers, pastors. They gave it all up so the rest of the world could be free.

When I think of this day, I think of the words of the greatest of airborne warriors, General Matthew Ridgeway, who had led the All American Division in North Africa and Sicily, and planned the airborne assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe. On the evening of D-Day he couldn’t sleep. He actually fell out of his cot in distress, and he reached for the Old Testament, and he turned to the Book of Joshua, to God’s promise to the Hebrew people on the day of their greatest battle, when He told Joshua, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

In 1986, Ronald Regan awarded General Ridgeway the Medal of Freedom, and he said that “heroes come when they are needed; great men call when courage is in short supply.” So this is a day about heroes and the courage that it took to keep the world free.

I have the great pleasure now to introduce to you a man from a family of warriors going back to World War II and Korea, with a son on the front lines in the United States Marine Corps, and his wonderful wife Karen, who does everything that she can to remind us all that military families are the foundation of our freedom. I have the great honor and the distinct pleasure to introduce the Vice President of the United States, the Honorable Mike Pence.