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Memorial Day Message
Memorial Day is an occasion to remember, to honor and to pay tribute to those who have worn the cloth of the nation, and whose brave sacrifice is forever etched in the annals of American history. <br /> <br />As commander of US Africa Command,
Memorial Day is an occasion to remember, to honor and to pay tribute to those who have worn the cloth of the nation, and whose brave sacrifice is forever etched in the annals of American history. As commander of US Africa Command, I'd especially like to recognize those Americans who fought and died on African soil. After Pearl Harbor our nation rallied. Like heroes before them, millions of young men and women of America's greatest generation answered the call of duty. From across our great land, our nation's sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters went off to war. And in North Africa, hundreds of thousands served. On the desert sands, on the waters of surrounding seas, and in the air above an invaded land the forces of good fought, endured and triumphed in hard-fought battle. As an infantry officer, I am moved by a report from the front lines sent from Tunisia in May 1943 by war reporter Ernie Pyle that describes some of these heroes: "We're now with an infantry outfit that has battled ceaselessly for four days and nights.

This northern warfare has been in the mountains. You don't ride much anymore. It is walking and climbing and crawling country. The mountains aren't big, but they are constant. They are largely treeless. They are easy to defend and bitter to take. But we are taking them.

A narrow path comes like a ribbon over a hill miles away, down a long slope, across a creek, up a slope and over another hill.

All along the length of this ribbon there is now a thin line of men. For four days and nights they have fought hard, eaten little, washed none, and slept hardly at all. Their nights have been violent with attack, fright, butchery, and their days sleepless and miserable with the crash of artillery.

The men are walking. Their walk is slow, for they are dead weary, as you can tell even when looking at them from behind. Every line and sag of their bodies speaks their inhuman exhaustion.

They don't slouch. It is the terrible deliberation of each step that spells out their appalling tiredness. Their faces are black and unshaven. They are young men, but the grime and whiskers and exhaustion make them look middle-aged.

There is an agony in your heart and you almost feel ashamed to look at them. They are just guys from Broadway and Main Street, but you wouldn't remember them. They are too far away now. They are too tired. Their world can never be known to you, but if you could see them just once, just for an instant, you would know that no matter how hard people work back home they are not keeping pace with these infantrymen in Tunisia." America and our allies were victorious. We defeated a determined enemy. But as America would later celebrate the homecoming of hundreds of thousands of service members, we were reminded that freedom is not free. The 2,841 service members still laid to rest in North Africa and the 3,724 listed as missing remind us of that. All who are laid to rest there and at other such sites around the globe have paid the price of freedom with the ultimate sacrifice. As a nation, we can never repay these brave men and women, but we can and we will continue to honor their sacrifice and keep alive their memory.
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