Remarks by Gen. Franks, Jr.
Remarks as Delivered by General Frederick M. Franks, Jr., USA (Ret), Chairman, American Battle Monuments Commission, Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France, June 6, 2007
We are very pleased that General Dwight D. Eisenhower's granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, was able to join us today to represent her grandfather and the Eisenhower family.
Special greetings to the World War II veterans who honor us with their presence and to the family members of those buried in this hallowed ground.
To our fighting British and Canadian Allies who landed east of here and the proud citizens of France-whose resistance paralyzed enemy rail and road traffic and interrupted communications to delay movement of enemy reserves to the combat zone-we offer thanks and a warm welcome.
I also want to acknowledge two individuals who could not be with us this morning-United States Congressmen David Obey and John Murtha.
In June 2001, they proposed that funding be included in the Congressional budget for construction of a visitor and interpretive center at the Normandy American Cemetery. Today, that vision becomes reality.
On behalf of the American Battle Monuments Commission-the agency of the United States government entrusted with the care of this inspiring shrine-and my fellow commissioners, it is my honor to welcome you to this commemoration of the 63rd Anniversary of the D-Day landings, and dedication of the Normandy American Cemetery Visitor Center.
Since 1923 when Congress established it, ABMC has been about honoring the service, achievements and sacrifice of those who died fighting for our own freedoms and for the freedoms of others, in 24 cemeteries and 25 memorials around the world.
Nearly 131,000 of our fellow Americans buried in those overseas shrines and the over 90,000 listed on our Tablets of the Missing in Action and buried beneath the graves marked Unknown But To God reminds us all of the cost of freedom.
Looking out this morning over this magnificent shrine here at Normandy and remembering what happened here-remembering and forever honoring those buried beneath the rows of crosses and Stars of David, I am inspired and moved-as I know you are and as a former soldier-by the competence, courage and sacrifice of those who attacked across these bloody beaches to achieve these heights here, at Pointe du Hoc, VII Corps at Utah Beach, and who dropped from the skies behind them to begin the liberation of Western Europe.
We remember today, those thousands of soldiers answering the call to duty upon leaving their landing craft and airplanes, who carried the hopes and prayers of the free world on their young shoulders.
As we remember, many of them sit among us today; many more lie in quiet dignity on this former battleground; many more still have since passed into eternity, leaving behind a proud legacy of service and sacrifice.
We remember they always made what they were doing larger than themselves, about duty and service, about fighting for freedom-simple, profound, and lasting values.
We remember they would not be denied here or anywhere until the mission was done. They had the will; they had staying power and the enemy knew it and felt it.
What gave Sergeant Frank Peregory the courage to storm through enemy positions when machine gun fire halted his unit's advance, attacking with his rifle, bayonet and hand grenades? He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, and is buried in Plot G, Row 21, Grave 7.
What motivated Sergeant Waverly Woodson, one of 1,700 African-American soldiers who landed on D-Day, to ignore his own wounds to take care repeatedly of wounded soldiers, while under enemy fire for which he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor?
What inspired Tech 5 John Pinder or First Lieutenant Jimmie Monteith? Both were killed in action on D-Day - both received the Medal of Honor posthumously for their actions - and both had U.S. military installations named after them in Germany during the Cold War so other generations of American could remember. Jimmie Monteith lays in Plot I, Row 20, Grave 12.
How can we remember for all times what they did here and honor that service and sacrifice?
The Normandy American Cemetery Visitor Center we dedicate today answers those questions and fulfills that national commitment to remember always.
It provides visitors, for the first time here, the historical context to better understand the stories of competence, courage and sacrifice that define D-Day.
It will allow us to continue to honor and pay our deepest respects for all times to those who fought here to begin the liberation of France and Europe.
Remembering those who fought here in this way reminds us there is no mission as noble as to fight for our own freedoms and the freedoms of others.
That legacy of service and sacrifice exemplified by our World War II generation-on land, on the sea, and in the air-is being carried forward today by a new generation of men and women of our armed forces who fight far from home for freedom.
Thank you for being here on this historic day.
To all of our World War II veterans, thank you for your inspiring service. Thank you for sharing this special commemoration with us. And thank you for the freedoms you preserved that we continue to enjoy today.