General P. X. Kelley, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)
Chairman, American Battle Monuments Commission
National WWII Memorial Dedication
Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving
May 29, 2004
On behalf of the American Battle Monuments Commission, the executive agency authorized by Congress to establish a World War II Memorial, I wish to thank the Washington National Cathedral for conducting this service of celebration, thanksgiving and remembrance.
At 2:00 PM our National World War II Memorial will take its rightful place on the Mall --- precisely on the centerline between memorials honoring Washington and Lincoln.
This morning I would like to share with you sentiments of our first and sixteenth Commanders-in-Chief—who, I know, will be watching our dedication ceremony and saying a heartfelt—Welcome!
On the occasion of retirement from Command of the Continental Army, General George Washington wrote to the governor of each state. These are words from his final benediction:
"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the divine author of our blessed Religion—without a humble imitation of these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. Grant our supplications we beseech thee lord god of the universe."
In remembering Abraham Lincoln we are reminded of his commitment in the aftermath of carnage at Gettysburg. It was there that the President of our young and divided nation said:
"… we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from this earth."
It has been within the spirit of this solemn pledge that our nation has sent its most precious treasures, its sons and daughters, to human conflicts beyond our shores --- not to seize --- not to subjugate --- not to occupy --- but to preserve the inalienable right of all mankind to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The cost of this commitment has been staggering --- during World War II, alone, 400,000 Americans in uniform made the supreme sacrifice --- and almost 700,000 more were wounded and 78,000 remain missing. I earnestly pray that we never --- ever --- forget the price of freedom!
In closing, let me quote from words now permanently etched in granite at the entrance to our World War II Memorial:
one the eighteenth century father and the other the
nineteenth century preserver of our nation, we honor
those twentieth century Americans who took up the struggle
during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to
perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us—
a nation conceived in liberty and justice.
God bless and guide our great nation—our land of the free—may it always remain, the home of the brave.