Floor and Committee Statements

Friday, May 22, 2015

Floor Speech - Memorial Day 2015

“As chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee of the United States Senate and on the eve of Memorial Day, I think it's appropriate that we pause for a moment. We debate as Democrats and Republicans today on the floor of the Senate -- currency, trade, national security, fast-track, the issues of the day -- in a contentious debate. We do so freely. We do so without fear of retribution…

“When we go home tonight we're at peace and comfort knowing we're in a safe nation … because of the men and women who have worn the uniform, sacrificed and gave their lives so America could exist today. I think it's only appropriate that each of us on the Senate floor take a moment to pause and give a prayer for our soldiers who have risked their lives and gave their lives for our country.

“For me as chairman of the [Senate Veterans’ Affairs] Committee, I make an effort to go to the American cemeteries all over the world to make sure we're still taking care of them and honoring those who sacrificed in the way they should be honored. I want to share with the Senate a brief story to point out how important Memorial Day really is.

“On Memorial Day in May of 2007, I went with Senator Burr and other members of the Senate to the American cemetery in Margraten in the Netherlands, where over 8,000 Americans are buried who fought in the Battle of the Bulge to root the Nazis out of Germany and liberate the Jews from the concentration camps. They were successful, but they died. I walked down the rows of crosses and stars of David looking at each name, ostensibly looking for Georgians to say a brief prayer for them. But I came to the end of row H toward the back of the cemetery, [to the] last cross in that cemetery, and it said the following: Roy C. Irwin, New Jersey, died December 28, 1944. A tear welled up in my eye because that's the day I was born…

“Seventy years later, I've existed as a free person in a free society, elected to the United States Senate, served in the military myself, raised a family, have nine grandchildren… because of Roy C. Irwin, who on the day I was born died in the battlefields of the Battle of the Bulge in the Netherlands fighting for democracy, freedom and the liberation of Europe and saving the Jewish people.

“No matter what we debate and how contentious it gets, we must remember what Memorial Day is all about. It's about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for you and I to engage in this debate and to move our country forward.

“One other point: We should say a special prayer for the parents of young Americans who fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan and the current wars today. We had a tragedy with the fall of Fallujah, we had a tragedy with the fall of Ramadi [and] we need those parents to know their sons and daughters did not die in vain. They died for a cause that ultimately will prevail because we as senators will see to it that America does what America always does:  …liberate the oppressed of the world and only ask for one thing when we leave, a couple acres to bury our dead who sacrificed for democracy, freedom and liberty.

“So on this Memorial Day, as chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I say thank God for the American soldiers who fought and died for our country and thank God for the United States of America.”