Thank you so much. Are you not so proud to be an American?
What an honor. What an honor.
We stand today at the symbolic crossroads of our nation’s history. All around us are monuments to those who have sustained us in word or deed. There in the distance stands the monument to the father of our country. And behind me, the towering presence of the Great Emancipator who secured our union at the moment of its most perilous time and freed those whose captivity was our greatest shame. And over these grounds where we are so honored to stand today, we feel the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who on this very day, two score and seven years ago, gave voice to a dream that would challenge us to honor the sacred charters of our liberty – that all men are created equal.
Now, in honoring these giants, who were linked by a solid rock foundation of faith in the one true God of justice, we must not forget the ordinary men and women on whose shoulders they stood. The ordinary called for extraordinary bravery. I am speaking, of course, of America’s finest – our men and women in uniform, a force for good in this country, and that is nothing to apologize for.
Abraham Lincoln once spoke of the “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land.” For over 200 years, those mystic chords have bound us in gratitude to those who are willingly to sacrifice, to restrain evil, to protect God-given liberty, to sacrifice all in defense of our country.
They fought for its freedom at Bunker Hill, they fought for its survival at Gettysburg, and for the ideals on which it stands – liberty and justice for all – on a thousand battlefields far from home.
It is so humbling to get to be here with you today, patriots – you who are motivated and engaged and concerned, knowing to never retreat. I must assume that you too know that we must not fundamentally transform America as some would want. We must restore America and restore her honor!
Now, I’ve been asked to speak today, not as a politician. No, as something more – something much more. I’ve been asked to speak as the mother of a soldier, and I am proud of that distinction. You know, say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can’t take that away from me. I’m proud of that distinction, but it is not one that I had imagined because no woman gives birth thinking that she will hand over her child to her country, but that’s what mothers have done from ancient days.
In cities and towns across our country, you’ll find monuments to brave Americans wearing the uniforms of wars from long ago, and look down at their inscriptions, you’ll see that they were so often dedicated by mothers. In distant lands across the globe, you’ll find silent fields of white markers with the names of Americans who never came home, but who showed their dedication to their country by where they died.
We honor those who served something greater than self and made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who served and did come home forever changed by the battlefield. Though this rally is about “restoring honor,” for these men and women honor was never lost! If you look for the virtues that have sustained our country, you will find them in those who wear the uniform, who take the oath, who pay the price for our freedom.
And I’d like to tell you three stories of such Americans – three patriots – who stand with us today.
The first is a man named Marcus Luttrell. His story is one of raw courage in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s also a story of America’s enduring quest for justice. Remember, we went to Afghanistan seeking justice for those who were killed without mercy by evil men on September 11th. And one fateful day in Afghanistan on a mountain ridge, Marcus and three of his fellow Navy SEALs confronted the issue of justice and mercy in a decision that would forever change their lives.
They were on a mission to hunt down a high-level Taliban leader, but they were faced with a terrible dilemma when some men herding goats stumbled upon their position, and they couldn’t tell if these men were friend or foe. So the question was what to do with them? Should they kill them or should they let them go and perhaps risk compromising their mission? They took a vote. They chose mercy over self-preservation. They set their prisoners free. The vote said it was the humane thing to do. It was the American thing to do. But it sealed their fate because within hours, over a hundred Taliban forces arrived on the scene. They battled the four Navy SEALs throughout the surrounding hills. A rescue helicopter came, but it was shot down. By the time the sun set on June 28, 2005, it was one of the bloodiest days for American forces in Afghanistan.
19 brave, honorable men were lost that day. Marcus was the sole survivor. Alone, stranded, badly wounded, he limped and crawled for miles along that mountain side. What happened next is a testament to the words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Marcus and his team showed mercy in letting their prisoners free. And later he was shown mercy by Afghan villagers who honored an ancient custom of providing hospitality to any stranger who would ask for it. They took him in. They cared for him, efused to hand him over to the Taliban. They got him back safely to our forces.
Marcus’ story teaches us that even on the worst battlefield against the most brutal enemy, we adhere to our principles. This American love of justice and mercy is what makes us a force for good in this world. Marcus is a testament to that.
Please join me in honoring retired U.S. Navy SEAL Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell.
From the time he first heard men marching to a cadence call, Eddie Wright had one dream in life, and that was to be a United States Marine. And as a Marine serving in Iraq, his company was ambushed in Fallujah. He was knocked out when a rocket propelled grenade hit his Humvee. When he came to, he saw that both his hands were gone and his leg was badly wounded.
He couldn’t fire his weapon, he could barely move, and he was bleeding to death. But he had the strength of mind to lead the men under his command, and that is exactly what he did. He kept them calm, he showed them how to stop the bleeding in his leg, he told them where to return fire, he had them call for support, and he got them out of there alive.
His composure under fire that day earned him the Bronze Star with Valor device. But if you ask him, “What did you get it for?”, he’ll tell you, “Just for doing my job.”
After a long recovery, Eddie continued to serve as a martial arts instructor. He resigned from his beloved Marine Corps a few years ago, but he still lives by the motto: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
And if you want to see the American spirit of never retreating, no matter the odds – of steady confidence and optimism, no matter the setbacks – look at Eddie’s story. No matter how tough times are, Americans always pull through. As Eddie put it himself: “We don’t really foster the attitude of I can’t. When you have an obstacle in front of you, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and focus on what you can.”
So, please join me in honoring retired Marine Sergeant James “Eddie” Wright.
Tom Kirk was an Air Force squadron commander and a combat pilot who had flown over 150 missions in Korea and Vietnam. One day on a routine mission over Hanoi, his plane was shot down. He spent the next five and a half years in that living hell known as the Hanoi Hilton.
Like his fellow prisoners, Tom endured the beatings, the torture, the hunger, the years of isolation. He described it, saying, “There was nothing to do, nothing to read, nothing to write. You had to just sit there in absolute boredom, loneliness, frustration, and fear. You had to live one day at a time, because you had no idea how long you were going to be there.”
After two years of solitary confinement, pacing back and forth in his cell — three and a half steps across, three and a half steps deep – Tom was finally moved to a larger holding cell with 45 other Americans prisoners, among them was a man named John McCain. In circumstances that defy description, this band of brothers kept each other alive, and one by one, they came home.
Tom was released on March 14, 1973. You might think that a man who had suffered so much for his country would be bitter and broken by it. But Tom’s heart was only filled with love – love for America – that special love of country that we call patriotism.
Tom wrote, “Patriotism has become, for many, a ‘corny’ thing. For me, it is more important now than at any time in my life. How wonderful it is to be an American come home!”
Friends, please join me in honoring retired Air Force Colonel Tom Kirk.
My fellow Americans, each one of these men here today faced terrible sufferings, overwhelming set-backs, and impossible odds.
And they endured! And their stories are America’s story.
We will always come through. We will never give up, and we shall endure because we live by that moral strength that we call grace. Because though we’ve often skirted a precipice, a providential hand has always guided us to a better future.
And I know that many of us today, we are worried about what we face. Sometimes our challenges, they just seem insurmountable.
But, here, together, at the crossroads of our history, may this day be the change point!
Look around you. You’re not alone. You are Americans!
You have the same steel spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is in you. It will sustain you as it sustained them.
So with pride in the red, white, and blue; with gratitude to our men and women in uniform; let’s stand together! Let’s stand with honor! Let’s restore America!
God bless you! And God bless America!