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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Memorial Day Service at Arlington National Cemetery; Obama's Final Wreath Laying at Arlington on Memorial Day; Hillary, Bill Clinton in Annual Memorial Day Parade in Chappaqua, N.Y. Aired 11- 11:30a ET
Aired May 30, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MILITARY SERVICEMEMBER: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MILITARY SERVICEMEMBER: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the wreath ceremony is complete. The Memorial Day service will begin shortly.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And as the president now makes his way to the amphitheater, he's going to give his remarks just on the other side of the Tomb of the Unknowns.
It's important to remember this is the 148th national Memorial Day observance at Arlington Cemetery. And it is President Obama's last. It is the last wreath that he will play at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It is the last Memorial Day address that he will give in the amphitheater. He'll be joined by the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter who will also give remarks. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs will also be speaking. And much of the party will make their way after a short musical interlude to the image that you're seeing on the right. Guests have already amassed on the other side of the Tomb of the Unknowns. That's going to be coming to you in just a few moments.
[11:05:16] It is more than likely as the president entered Arlington National Cemetery and made his way throughout the thousands and thousands of tombstones that are in that cemetery, he may have passed by Area 60. And if you have visited, you will know that Area 60 is populated by those who have died in Afghanistan and in Iraq. They are our most recent fallen heroes.
That's where Barbara Starr is standing by live right now.
And, Barbara, it's always -- I'm awestruck when we do these live interviews with you every year to see how many more tombstones are behind you, because when you started doing these live shots, this was a very empty area.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ashleigh. It was. This was really basically an empty green meadow, and over the years, it has filled as families have laid their loved ones to rest here. This is really the history of the last 15 years of war for American troops and for American military families. You see it all basically written here. The battles that have come back into our headlines, Fallujah, Ramadi, Baghdad in Iraq. The Korangal (ph), Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kabul in Afghanistan. We see these families repeatedly come back here year after year to visit their loved ones.
I want to have the camera pan a bit. You will see there's a 90-year- old grandmother here. There are small toddlers here. These are people who pause, as so many Americans do, across this country to pay their respects. We see battle buddies coming here to visit their friend who didn't make it all the way home. It is quite an awestruck sight every year that we see.
People sort of refer to Section 60 as the saddest acre in America. I got to tell you, I don't see it that way. On a day like today, what I see is an acre that is full of probably the most solid love that you are going to find. These are people who are coming to pay their respects, to pay -- Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: Barbara Starr, it's always poignant to see the families behind you there as well, little children, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.
Barbara is going to continue to do the coverage today on this Memorial Day from Section 60 where she is regularly bringing us updates every year.
I also want to bring in our CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier. You probably see her regularly commenting on CNN. But this marks 10 years since Kimberly herself was wounded in a car bomb attack while covering u. s troops on patrol in Baghdad for "CBS News."
Kimberly, thanks for being with us.
And also with us is CNN military analyst, Major General James "Spider" Marks, who was the senior intelligence officer for the coalition landing forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
And I wanted to just get some perspective on what we're seeing today. This is the president's final wreath laying at Arlington on Memorial Day.
And, honestly, Kimberly, he started his presidency saying he wanted to end the wars and we are still in some fashion in these wars. This is a tricky line to walk, especially with us all being in political season at this time.
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is. And there's some frustration among military rank that is the Obama administration didn't do more to either stay in Iraq or Afghanistan to head off some of what we're seeing on the ground now in Iraq and Syria, but I was to attend this ceremony last year where President Obama is about to speak, and what struck me is that on this day all of that frustration gets put aside. There is respect for his office and his respect for their service. You could argue that one of the reasons that he wanted to pull those troops out and that he has been so reluctant to send more into the Syrian conflict against ISIS is that he takes every one of those combat deaths to heart.
BANFIELD: Four of those combat deaths occurring while you were on the road and were injured as well.
Spider, if you could weigh in on the notion that just today the news is breaking as we honor our fallen heroes that Fallujah is on target and that towns all around it in Iraq are falling, and there are Americans who are close to the front lines in several reports, working with artillery, in fact. We still have active members in war zones. And Afghanistan, two more car bombs today as well. It is unlikely that we will be out of these wars anytime soon.
[11:10:10] MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Ashleigh, you're exactly correct. You know, very sadly it's been recorded in history that only the dead have seen the end of warfare, and, in fact, what we're seeing is our nation's commitment to ensure that it can do the right thing alongside a partner, the partner being Iraq. And clearly, as Kimberly has laid out, we have had our issues over the years in terms of the prosecution of this conflict. There have been some differences between leaders both on the civilian side and on the military side. But one thing remains permanent, and that is the focus of our nation to do the right thing and that sacrifices will be made. You know, the soldiers' first duty is to remember, and on a like today, it is a duty that we all recognize. We do remember on Memorial Day.
BANFIELD: And every town across America has some kind of remembrance, whether it's a parade or whether it's just some solemn remembrance.
I want to take us right now, if I can, from Arlington National Cemetery where we will return in minutes, to Chappaqua in New York. There is an annual Memorial Day parade there as well.
And our Miguel Marquez is walking in this one, because former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, now candidate for the Democratic nomination, is also, we're told, going to be marching in this parade as well with her husband, Bill Clinton. And I'm just -- yeah, you can see them there.
Miguel, are you somewhere close to them?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are very close to them. I can hear the bagpipes. And I can see the Clintons. Here they come right by us right now with several other luminaries and politicians. There's the governor of New York, and there is Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Clinton, can we speak to you?
MARQUEZ: The full contingent here in Chappaqua, New York, their adopted hometown. Hillary Clinton just next to her husband. Her husband closest to us. And all the luminaries of the states coming out on this Memorial Day.
They do this every year. They are well liked here in Chappaqua in Westchester County. In the primary here, she won over Senator Sanders, 68 percent to 32 percent. Gives you an idea of just how well liked she is.
MARQUEZ: It wouldn't be Memorial Day without the bagpipes which are coming now.
BANFIELD: Miguel, I'm going to leave you there for a moment as you cover the former secretary of state, the former president of the United States, Hillary and Bill Clinton, in Chappaqua, their New York home.
I will take us back to Arlington National Cemetery. This is the amphitheater on the other side of the Tomb of the Unknowns. "Hail to the Chief" being played as the president is getting ready to address those who have gathered here. Here will be preceded by the chaplain of the Army. Let's have a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Chaplain Studnewski.
UNIDENTIFIED U.S. MILITARY CHAPLAIN: I invite you to pray with me. Almighty and ever living God, by your mercy the faithful departed find rest. We pray you look kindly on the servants we remember today who died in service to their country. These were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, parents and patriots all who lived in this world for too short a time, yet made it a better world by their sacrifice. They longed, as we all long, for a world of true justice and perpetual peace, and they spent themselves in service to bring about that world as they understood it. They loved, and they were loved, and they are loved. We may not know the name of every soul who lay at rest here or on more distant fields, but you know every name, Lord, for every soul is precious to you. As we gather here and in places all across this land and wherever our honored dead lie, we fulfill our pledge never to forget their sacrifice, but even more we gather in hope, hope in promises that those who lay down their lives for another, who nobly serve the cause of right, who carry their burdens faithfully, not for hope of reward but for fulfillment of duty will their reward. Bless these beloved dead, Lord, with the peace only you can give, a piece that is sweet, a peace that is restful, a peace that is eternal. Amen.
[11:15:28] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please join the United States Army Band and Master Sergeant Michael Ford in singing our national anthem.
(APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please be seated.
Ladies and gentlemen, General Dunford.
GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Good morning, Mr. President, Secretary Carter, distinguished guests, and most importantly, to the Gold Star families who are here, it's an honor to be with you today on this hallowed ground.
As we pause this morning and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom and security of our great nation, thousands of men and women continue to serve on active duty around the world, many in harm's way. This morning, while we remember and honor the fallen, I'd ask you to keep those still serving in your thoughts and prayers as well.
Today's generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen is proudly following in the footsteps of an unending line of American citizens who have answered the call to duty. Since George Washington cobbled together an army, over 40 million Americans have served the colors to ensure the citizens of our nation could live their lives and raise their children in freedom and peace. Some supported the birth of the revolution, more recently, others have answered the call to confront terrorism. The story of the 40 million who have served is the story of our nation. Along the way, more than one million Americans have given the last full measure. Over 100,000 in World War I. Over 400,000 in World War II. Almost 40,000 in Korea. Over 58,000 in Vietnam. And over 5,000 have been killed in action since 9/11. These statistics are compelling, but they don't begin to capture the enormity of the sacrifice, for the loss of each individual brings untold anguish and grief. Those statistics represent sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, good friends. Those statistics represent children who grew up without their mothers and fathers. Those statistics represent lives shattered, hopes and dreams never realized. Today is a reminder of the real cost of freedom, the real cost of security, and that's the human cost.
But I don't believe our focus today should be on how these men and women died. It's how they lived that's important. It's how they lived that makes us remember them. In life, these individuals chose to be something bigger than themselves. They chose to accept hardship and great personal risk. They were people who truly embodied the most important values and traditions of our nation. If we truly want to honor the fallen from all of our conflicts, if we truly want to give meaning to their sacrifice, we'll do something in addition to marking their graves with flags and flowers. Each of us will leave here today with the resolve to strengthen our commitment to our nation and the values for which it stands. If we walk away from today's ceremony reminded that the cause of freedom requires sacrifice, if we walk away with a renewed sense of commitment to our values, if we walk away reminded how important it is to defend those values, then I would offer that those that were taken from us prematurely will be able to look down and know that we truly remembered them. More importantly, those that were taken from us prematurely will be able to look down and know that their lives had meaning.
[11:20:33] On behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen that we are privileged to lead, thank you for bringing meaning to the sacrifice of the missing and fallen. Thank you for remembering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, listen now as Master Sergeant Michael Ford, of the United States Army Band, performs the "Last Full Measure of Devotion."
[11:25:42] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Carter.
GEN. ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Mr. President, General Dunford, warriors, veterans, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us this solemn remembrance today.
In each of the more than 400,000 markers here at Arlington, we find a dignified memorial to a life dedicated to the noblest of callings, to protect our people, uphold humankind's highest values, and make a better world for our children.
They say that security is like oxygen, if you have it, you don't think about it. But if you don't have it, it's all you think about. The patriots remembered today across the country provided that security, and so today do the millions of servicemembers, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, active duty, Guard, Reserve, provide that security. They're part of a long heritage of patriots who fought in places like Lexington and Concord, Gettysburg and Midway, Chosan (ph) and Kasan (ph), and more recently Fallujah and Helmand.
On Memorial Day, we especially remember those who gave their lives in this noblest of callings. And to our Gold Star families, you honor us with your presence. We know we lack the words to do justice to what you feel on this day. We can never fully know, but we do know what your sacrifice means to us, to this nation, to a world that still depends so much on American men and women in uniform to its security.
For all, Memorial Day in America is a line across the times, a line that connects yesterday with today and tomorrow, that we're here today and that remembrances like this are under way across this shining land isn't lost on the kids who serve today. I hear this all the time. They know what it means, that it means that they, too, are doing the noblest of things, providing security so that Americans can get up in the morning, dress their kids, kiss them off to school, go to work, dream their dreams, live lives that are full. They know it means that for all its variety, America is one in its support for them. And they know that not one of them, not one ever will be left behind, that every effort will be made to bring them home no matter how long it takes. They can see that, too, today on Memorial Day. The line comes to them.
Now, those who serve today do so in a world that has its challenges and foes for America, which our strength will counter and defeat. Of that, we can be certain. But it's also a world of bright opportunities that we'll grab hold of for them and their children. We can be certain of our strength, of our success, and of our hope because our troops today make up the finest fighting force the world has ever known.
A force of this caliber demands great leaders. And there's no doubt that they have one in the commander-in-chief. I see firsthand how clearly he understands the challenges we face and the obligations we must meet to keep our nation safe and make a better world. Above all, I witness the unending concern he has for our men and women in uniform and their families, their safety, their dignity, their welfare, and the boundless care with which he makes decisions that put them in harm's way. For this and for much more, I'm tremendously proud to serve as his secretary of defense.