General Corsini, Vice Admiral Davidson, Commissioner Dorgan, I am greatly honored to be here today.
I am particularly grateful to see that we are joined today by two veterans of the fighting here, as well as four family members of soldiers who participated in the Italian campaign.
Italy, the United States and indeed the world owes thanks to Eugene Gutierrez, who fought here as a member of the Service Company of the First Special Service Force and Antonio Taurelli, a citizen of Italy who served with US 82nd Air Borne Division.
Additionally, Mrs. Rita Tomas, sister of Sergeant Rainville; Mrs. Cathy Landry, niece of Private McAlice; Mrs.Lynn Nymark, daughter of Maj Thomas E. Pearce Jr.; and Mrs. Gail Brown, daughter of 1st Lieutenant Albright—thank you so much for coming here today.
Your presence reminds us of the real meaning of what we see around us at this beautiful cemetery.
On Memorial Day, both at home and around the world, Americans pause to reflect on the sacrifice of those who died in our nation’s wars to protect the blessings of liberty.
It is a solemn occasion—and humbling—to consider the bravery and loss of so many who have died defending our freedom.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nettuno/Anzio landings, this year’s ceremony is particularly poignant.
So much bloodshed, so much destruction, and so much heroism—it is overwhelming just to think of it all.
But it our sacred duty to do just that.
I recently discovered that a cousin of my grandfather—Private First Class James Schlegel—was among the fallen.
His name is inscribed on the wall adjacent the Union Evangelical Church here in Nettuno.
It is very moving to see. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all those names displayed here.
And so we are gathered here today to remind ourselves that the sacrifice of our fallen heroes has not been in vain.
We honor them; we vow never to forget their inspiring courage; and we rededicate ourselves to the principles they died defending.
I come from a small town in central Florida. Like others of my generation, I grew up revering those who served in uniform, and I considered our World War II heroes almost larger than life.
In the intervening years, my admiration and appreciation for our military personnel has only grown.
Our embassies in Rome are protected by young Marines whose professionalism and excellence remind all of us daily that they walk in the footsteps of the heroes who lie buried here today.
In times of peace, we take our liberties for granted.
But freedom is not free.
It must be defended.
It is thanks to the courage and sacrifice of those sworn to protect us that we are able to live in the freedom and prosperity built by the generations that have come before us.
And so let us all take a moment today to reflect on the sacrifice of those who defend us, and to pay tribute to their valor.
Today a grateful Nation salutes them all.
Let us resolve to prove worthy of their sacrifice.
And May God bless America.