Korean War Veterans Memorial
11:34 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Secretary Zinke, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, Deputy Secretary Byrne, Secretary Wilson, Administrator Trap, Ambassador Cho, Colonel Dean, and most of all, to the heroic veterans of the Korean War who honor us by their presence here today, and especially to the families of our fallen: Karen and I are deeply humbled to join you on this hallowed ground as a poignant reminder that “freedom is not free” and that we will always remember at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. (Applause.)
I’m honored to be here today to present to this memorial a flag. It was presented to me following the Honorable Carry Ceremony that took place in Hawaii on August 1st, 2018. This flag was among those flags that graced the cases of some 55 remains of fallen American heroes. And it was my great honor to receive it.
As the son of a Korean War combat veteran, I may well have no greater honor in my service as your Vice President than the honor that was afforded to me by our Commander-in-Chief to attend that ceremony, and receive those heroic remains and this flag on that day.
It was my honor to represent the United States, but it was my particular honor to represent the man who made that day possible. A man whose leadership and care for Americans who have served, and who serve in the uniform of the United States of America, is every day.
So let me say thanks and bring greetings, to all those gathered here, from a great champion of our armed forces — past, present, and future — the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
As history records, on June the 12th, President Trump traveled to a historic summit in Singapore with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. And as our President secured a commitment for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula — as I reflected that day, at that ceremony — he also had our fallen on his heart. And President Trump secured a promise from Kim Jong Un to return the remains of all our missing heroes from the Korean War.
Thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, once again, our boys are coming home. (Applause.)
We cherish our alliance with the Republic of Korea, well represented here today by not only their ambassador, but members of their military. It is an alliance forged in freedom, on the battlefield, and through generations. And as the world saw this week, we continue to make progress toward our goal of forging a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
As we’re all aware, just recently, Kim Jong Un announced his commitment to allow nuclear inspections subject to final negotiations, and offered to permanently dismantle a test site and a launch pad in the presence of international observers.
As President Trump said, we welcome this good news. We look forward to further progress. And I can assure you, we will continue to work diligently to achieve peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. And we will never relent in our effort to bring our missing fallen home. (Applause.)
We do this for our security and the security of the free people of South Korea. We do this for peace. But we also do it to fulfill a solemn promise that the American people have made through the generations to every man and woman who has served this great nation in uniform: that the United States of America will leave no one behind. (Applause.)
As I said, it was deeply humbling for us to be there on August 1st. And when I was presented this flag by Rear Admiral Jon Kreitz at Joint Base Hickam, Pearl Harbor, I knew where it belonged. It belonged here on this hallowed ground, the Korean War Veterans Memorial. (Applause.)
After all, it was thanks to the persistence of so many of you that were involved in the construction of this great monument that Americans will remember for generations the sacrifices that were made there.
And soon, a Wall of Remembrance will be constructed here. In 2016, as the Colonel just recounted, Congress authorized the addition of a Wall of Remembrance to be constructed at this memorial, around the Reflecting Pool. It will be entirely funded by the American people in private donations. And all those looking on, who have a heart for those who served in the Korean War and their families, can go to KoreanWarVetsMemorial.org to find how you can support this Wall of Remembrance.
And when it’s completed, into its glass will be etched the names of the 36,574 Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion in the cause of freedom on the Korean Peninsula. It will also list, as well, the number of wounded, missing in action, and prisoners of war.
When the Wall of Remembrance is completed, for generations to come this memorial will honor those who served and honor those who fell for every American to remember. (Applause.)
It’s important that we acknowledge those who played a critical role, many of whom are here today, in the construction of this memorial, as well as the new efforts that are underway.
I can’t help but think of a colonel who fought at the Battle of Wonju. His company was tasked with taking a hill. After hours of fighting, they achieved their objective. But when the enemy rallied, that colonel was hit by a grenade and lost his arm in the fight.
The brutal cold stopped the bleeding, and the Colonel returned to battle. An hour later, he was hit again and lost a leg. That took him out of the fight — but not for long. After he recovered, Colonel William E. Weber returned to active duty and became the first double amputee since the Civil War to continue serving in the military of the United States of America. (Applause.)
While he could not be with us today, his leading role in bringing about this memorial and making this extraordinary place available to generations of America needs to be acknowledged. And we honor him today, as well as all of those in the association that continue to labor at his side.
And this monument will commemorate the Korean War. For while it was initially called a police action, then it was called the Korean Conflict, those who lived it and those who fought it know, in every sense of the word, it was a war.
The free nations of the world responded when North Korea’s tanks stormed across the 38th parallel to stem the rising tide of communism across the Asia Pacific. America’s best and bravest answered the call. They did, as history records, defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.
And as Karen and I have traveled to South Korea, on every occasion, we’ve been overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude of the people of South Korea for the sacrifices and the heroism of the soldiers like those gathered here.
They stood firm at Pusan. They landed at Inchon. They pushed toward the Yalu River. Where five years earlier they’d been trudging through the Ardennes in World War II, now they were fighting for their lives in an endless sea of brown, as history described it.
And then there was the cold — 20, 30, 40 degrees below zero. Guns froze. Trucks broke down. Men’s hands were turned white with frostbite. Near the Chosin Reservoir, men dug holes in a ground frozen 18 inches deep.
In the midst of those brutal conditions, you soldiered on. From Heartbreak Ridge, to Old Baldy, to Pork Chop Hill, you drove the enemy back. You held the line. American forces and South Korean forces won a victory for freedom for the South Korean people and the world. (Applause.)
Now, for those who fought, we understand — we understand the need to set aside the memories of those days. My father is gone 30 years, but I remember the way my father’s voice would often trail off when the subject of the war came up. The memories were painful. And we understand the burden that those of you who fought and returned carry to this day.
While we understand your need to look away from those memories, we as grateful citizens never will. We will never forget the service and sacrifice of the American heroes of the Korean War. (Applause.)
Those who returned home, started families, started businesses. Many went into public service, like Congressman Sam Johnson, who was just remembered here — a man I served with in the Congress. A Korean War veteran serving in the Congress to this day.
But as my dad used to say, he always felt that the real heroes of the Korean War were the men that didn’t get to come home. Heroes like Captain John Springer Walmsley, Jr.
Captain Walmsley was the pilot of a B-26 Invader. One night on patrol, he spotted an enemy supply train, dropped all their ordnance against it, but the train kept going. They called in another B-26 to finish it off, and they turned on the searchlight on their aircraft to eliminate the target. That made them an easy target for anti-aircraft batteries.
Captain Walmsley’s B-26 was lost that night, but he’ll never be forgotten. And we are profoundly honored that his daughter, Amy Goyne, is with us today to honor his service and his memory. (Applause.)
Their duty was to serve; our duty is to remember. To the veterans who are with us here today, I say on behalf of a grateful nation: Thank you for your service. No one will ever know better than you the price of freedom.
To the families of our missing fallen: Our hope is that this flag presented to this place will be a comfort and an assurance that your loved one will never be forgotten and that we will never relent in our effort to restore all our missing fallen to the tender care of their families.
We will work and we will pray that the remains that came to Hawaii on August 1st will simply be a vanguard of what’s to come.
Tomorrow is POW-MIA Recognition Day, when our nation will pause to remember all the men and women of our armed forces that never came home.
And so while we honor those of you who served and wore the uniform, and your families — we honor the families of our fallen here and looking on — let me assure all of the families across America who lost loved ones in wars, on behalf of our freedom: Just know that we are with you. The names of your beloved fallen will forever be enshrined in sacred places like this and in the hearts of a grateful nation.
May God bless the memory of our fallen and their families. May they ever be comforted with the memory of the hero that came from their midst. May God bless all who still serve in the uniform of the United States. And may God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
11:51 A.M. EDT