President, GOP Recognize Memorial Day In Weekly Addresses

By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz
By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama and Rep. Lynn Jenkins marked the Memorial Day weekend by paying tribute to U.S. service members during their weekly addresses Saturday.

"Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend," Obama said. "In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it."

Jenkins, a Republican whose Kansas district includes Fort Leavenworth, called Memorial Day "a time to pause and thank the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who have died in the defense of our country."

She and Obama also recognized the sacrifices of those serving in the armed forces.

"As we honor the fallen, we pray for our sons and daughters who are risking their lives so that we may live in freedom and security," Jenkins said.

An important way to honor their service, she continued, is by building the economy so that they can find jobs when they return home.

"Unfortunately, roughly 22 million of our fellow citizens are struggling to find a good-paying full-time job in President Obama's economy," she said, and touted a GOP-backed set of measures called the "Republicans' Plan for America's Job Creators."

"This week, as part our jobs plan, my Republican colleagues and I spread out across the country to highlight the economic potential of our domestic energy resources. As part of this American Energy & Jobs Tour, I visited an oil well in Girard, Kansas - a small town whose proud energy workers make a big contribution to our region's economy," Jenkins added.

She called for removing "government barriers to all forms of domestic energy production," as well as repeal of the president's health care law and congressional passage of a federal budget.

Obama also called for efforts on the home front "to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone."

"We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us," he said. "By making sure that they get the health care and benefits they need, by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families, and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect."

More than 6,400 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn in Iraq. An additional 48,000 service members have been wounded in those operations.

At least 3,100 of those deaths were due to improvised explosive devices, the U.S. military said.

Obama said his position includes "no higher honor than serving as ... commander-in-chief."

"But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility -- one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down," he said. "No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence."

He visited Afghanistan in May, landing under the cover of night to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement that laid out terms between the U.S. and Afghanistan after U.S. and other NATO troops withdraw by the end of 2014. Approximately 90,000 U.S. troops are among the 130,000 NATO troops in the nation.

Operations in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001 with airstrikes, and the U.S. military first acknowledged a ground operation 12 days later.

The last U.S. combat troops left Iraq in December 2011. President George W. Bush announced U.S. troops were entering the country on March 19, 2003, 48 hours after issuing an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the United States deploying a significant military presence in Vietnam. In 1962, the U.S. sent some 10,000 military advisers to join the 900 U.S. military advisers already in the country.

"It's another chance to honor those we lost at places like Hue, Khe Sanh, Danang and Hamburger Hill," Obama said in his address.

Obama said he would mark Memorial Day with tributes at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.


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