Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Trump Honors Fallen at Arlington. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired May 29, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Now ladies and gentlemen, it's my great honor to introduce our commander-in-chief, president of the United States, Donald Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you so much.
And thank you, General Dunford, Secretary Mattis, for your moving words, and for your service to our great nation.
Vice President Pence, cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, members of the armed forces and veterans, thank you for joining us as we honor the brave warriors who gave their lives for ours, spending their last moments on this earth in defense of this country and of its people.
Words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love or the totality of their courage. We only hope that every day we can prove worthy, not only of their sacrifice, and service, but of the sacrifice made by the families and loved ones they left behind. Special, special people.
I especially want to extend our gratitude to Secretary John Kelly, for joining us today. Incredible man.
TRUMP: I always like to call him general. He understands more than most ever could or ever will the wounds and burdens of war. Not only did the secretary proudly serve in the military for more than 40 years and during many hardships, but he and his incredible wife, Karen, have borne the single most difficult hardship of them all, the loss of their son, Robert, in service to our country. Robert died fighting the enemies of all civilization in Afghanistan.
To John, Karen, Heather, Tate, Andrea, and the entire Kelly family, today 300 million American hearts are joined together with yours. We grieve with you, we honor you, and we pledge to you that we will always remember Robert, and what he did for all of us.
Thank you, John.
TRUMP: The Kelly family represents military families across the country who carry the burden of freedom on their shoulders. Secretary Kelly is joined today by his son-in-law, Jake, a wounded warrior. And the secretary's son, Johnny, will soon leave on his fifth deployment.
It is because of families like yours that all of our families can live in safety and live in peace.
To every Gold Star family who honors us with your presence, you lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. They each had their own names, their own stories, their own beautiful dreams. But they were all angels sent to us by God, and they all share one title in common, and that is the title of hero. Real heroes.
[11:35:09] TRUMP: So they were here only a brief time before God called them home, their legacy will endure forever. General Douglas MacArthur once said that "The soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind."
Here at this hallowed shrine, we honor the noblest among us, the men and women who paid the ultimate price for victory and for freedom. We pay tribute to those brave souls who raced in to gunfire, roared into battle, and ran into hell to face down evil. They made their sacrifice not for fame, or for money, or even for glory, but for country.
We are privileged to be joined today by a man whose life demonstrates the values of service and sacrifice, Senator Bob Dole, here with his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole.
TRUMP: Senator Dole fought bravely in World War II, and was severely wounded by German fire. In just a few weeks, Bob will be celebrating his 94th birthday.
TRUMP: And, Bob, I know I speak for millions of grateful Americans when I say, thank you. Thank you, Bob.
TRUMP: We thank you not only for your service, but for helping us to remember your fallen comrades and the countless American patriots who gave their lives in the Second World War. Since the first volley of gunfire in the revolution, brave Americans
in every generation have answered the call of duty, and won victory for freedom in its hour of need. Today, a new generation of American patriots are fighting to win the battle against terrorism, risking their lives to protect our citizens from an enemy that uses the murder of innocents to wage war on humanity itself.
We are joined today by the wife of Specialist Christopher Horton, who rests on these so beautiful grounds. As Jane tells us Chris was a man who loved this country with every part of his being. In 2008, Chris enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard. He trained as a sniper, becoming known as one of the best shots anywhere, at any time. He was a talented, tough guy. While Chris was in the National Guard, he was also a volunteer police officer. In everything he did, he was thinking about how he could serve God, serve his family, and serve his country. In 2011, he deployed for the first time to Afghanistan. Chris knew his job was one of the most dangerous there was. But he was determined to go after the enemy at any cost to himself. His missions helped target and kill terrorists who sought to destroy innocent people. Just three months into his first deployment Chris was near the Pakistan border, trying to eliminate an enemy cell that was doing so much damage and that was planting deadly roadside bombs against his unit and the units of many others. Standing watch with his comrades, he died in the ensuing gun battle with enemy forces. Chris sacrificed his life to protect his fellow soldiers, and to protect all Americans. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his courage. At only 26 years old, Chris secured his place in our hearts for eternity.
[11:40:35] Jane, America grieves with you. Our whole entire nation sends you our support, our strength, and our deep, deep love. You lost your husband, and America lost a hero. And together we will preserve his memory, today, tomorrow, and always. Thank you, Jane.
TRUMP: Thank you, Jane.
TRUMP: Thank you, Jane.
TRUMP: Thank you, Jane.
We're also joined today by David and Rose Byers, the parents of Major Andrew Byers. As a boy, Andrew dreamed of the chance to attend the United States military academy at west point. He worked hard. He earned that chance. And he graduated at the top of his class. He became the commander of a special team leading his fellow soldiers, hurtling into dangers and unknown territory. About this time last year, Andrew was sent on his third combat deployment. This time he went to Afghanistan. On November 3rd, he was one of 10 Special Forces operators to land by helicopter near a Taliban safe haven in northern Afghanistan. They trekked through a mile of waist deep mud, and climbed steep -- before finally reaching the village that they wanted to reach. There, a night-long battle ensued. Andrew and his team fought off wave after wave after wave of enemy fighters. A grenade detonated. And as the Taliban began to surround the Americans, and Afghan forces, Andrew ran through the smoke and through the hail of bullets, to rescue an Afghan soldier. In the midst of this torrent of gunfire and danger, Andrew worked heroically to open a gateway and get his men to safety, risking his life to save theirs, and he did it. Unbelievably, he did it. But in saving those lives, Andrew was killed, right then and there, by enemy fire. Andrew has since been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in battle.
To his parents, David and Rose, we stand in awe of your son and his courageous sacrifice. On behalf of the American people, I express to you our everlasting gratitude for what your son did for his country, for his comrades, and for all of us. Andrew's father has said that he holds onto the promise of Joshua 1, verse 9, "The lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Thank you. Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you.
[11:45:04] TRUMP: Thank you.
TRUMP: What a man he was.
To every Gold Star family, God is with you. And your loved ones are with him. They died in war so that we could live in peace. I believe that God has a special place in heaven for those who lay down their lives so that others may live free, from fear, and this horrible oppression.
Now, let us pledge to make the most of that freedom that they so gallantly and brilliantly fought for, and they died to protect. Let us also pledge to tell the stories of Robert, Chris, Andrew, and all of America's fallen warriors today, and for the next 1,000 years.
TRUMP: And while we cannot know the extent of your pain, what we do know is that our gratitude to them and to you is boundless and undying. Boundless and undying. We'll always be there. Thank you.
TRUMP: Their stories are now woven into the soul of our nation, into the stars and stripes on our flag, and into the beating hearts of our great, great people.
Today, we also hold a special vigil for heroes whose story we cannot tell, because their names are known to God alone, the unknown soldiers. We do not know where they came from, who they left behind, or what they hoped to be. But we do know what they did. They fought and they died in a great and noble act of loyalty and love to their families, and to our country.
In a letter written that is now famous, one Civil War soldier captured it all, and for all time. He wrote to his wife, "If I do not return, my dear, Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name."
That is the love we hear whispering throughout this sacred place and from every tombstone on these hallowed grounds. It is the love that binds this earth beneath us and bleeds from the hearts of all of those who died so that we might live free. We can never replace them. We cannot repay them. But we can always remember. And today, that is what we are doing. We remember.
Words cannot wipe away the tears or bring back those smiling faces. But if Americans just take the time to look into your eyes, and tell you how much we thank you, and how dearly we pray for you, and how truly we love you, then hopefully you can find solace through your pain. And every time you see the sun rise over this blessed land, please know your brave sons and daughters pushed away the night and delivered for us all that great and glorious dawn.
[11:50:29] Thank you. God bless you. God bless our fallen heroes. God bless their families. God bless our military. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing for the playing of taps and the benediction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I receive the benediction. Oh mighty and merciful God, grant all of us grace and peace and a strong recollection of this national Memorial Day observance. May this day be etched into our hearts and always cause us to be thankful for your blessings and their sacrifices. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. After going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them. Amen.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in place until the president has departed and the colors are retired.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We've been watching special Memorial Day coverage as the president addressed the nation and particular military men and women and also especially the families of those who have lost loved ones who have died fighting for this country, for democracy. A moving moment certainly. About a 20-minute speech in which he mentioned his secretary, John Kelly, who also lost a son in combat and another son getting ready to deploy. And he brought up many stories of other family members who are in the audience of those who have gone on to serve and who have died the ultimate sacrifice.
I want to bring back CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling; and CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, as we continue to look at live pictures of the president at Arlington National Cemetery.
General, first, your reaction to the words we heard from the president today.
[11:55:13] LT. GEN. HARK HERLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'd sum it up by saying this was first of all as it always is every year, I've been to many of these ceremonies. Very solemn. It pays tribute to the sacrifice. You have to take the combination of the three speakers together. Chairman Dunford gave an excellent presentation in terms of reminding people that they have to earn what these young men and women sacrifice in giving their life. Secretary Mattis talked a little bit about the history, so he went from earning it to historical references of men of arms of all ages and throughout the years, and then the president actually pulled together some very good memories of individuals who served. Their actions, their history, their families. So it tied together I think very well in terms of what these kinds of ceremonies are supposed to be all about. In combination with the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. This is a special very day for veterans and their families. There were not only a lot of Gold Star families in the audience but a lot of veterans. It was just a very moving ceremony.
CABRERA: Douglas, when it comes to the support of the military, this is almost always a unifying issue. No matter what party a president represents, they always promise unconditional support. What do you see as the distinctions between this president compared to past presidents in this arena?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, as you suggest, they all love the armed forces. I mean, talk about Washington, D.C. being broken or politics being broken, but nobody thinks our armed forces are broken. Memorial Day is a sacred moment. I thought today's ceremony was like it usually is, very well done. Everything perfectly choreographed. I thought the length was the right speech. It reminded me of the way Ronald Reagan did the events, the way he chose a few stories of recent fallen warriors and, you know, paid homage to them. There was an interesting call out to former Senator bob dole who's still in his 90s. Was once the Republican nominee for president back in 1996 against Bill Clinton.
What was missing today was I thought there would have been a mention to John F. Kennedy. This is his 100th birthday. Kennedy's grave and the Eternal Flame is just a stone's throw away. And also John Glenn, who was recently buried in Arlington and is tied to the Kennedy years. I thought there might be a mention of that, but there wasn't. I thought the president did, as most presidents do, a very appropriate job today.
CABRERA: General, I want to come back to our discussion prior to the president's comments. I think it was so important what you were saying at that moment, which was talking about how us, as Americans, as citizens, and just everyday people, can do more to honor the sacrifice that so many have made before us.
HERTLING: Americans like to give money to organizations. There are certainly quite a few out there they can give money to and support. And I mentioned taps, operation gratitude, the USO. There are a lot of nonprofits that you can contribute to. They're on the web. But more importantly, and this is the point that I'd like to emphasize on Memorial Day, it's every day common decency toward one another. It's understanding the values of our nation, of integrity and humility and empathy, service to others. That's what all of these servicemembers died for. And making a difference not only in your community, but in the nation and in the world. That's what really most servicemembers serve for. They serve for their country, but they understand how much they do to contribute to safety and security. These young men and women who are buried under the stones at Arlington and all the cemeteries throughout the world, they understood that. They were fighting for something bigger than themselves and diagnose for a cause greater than themselves. Every American should take it upon themselves to say not only how do I contribute money but through actions. That's the most important thing on this day.
CABRERA: All right. General Mark Hertling and historian, Douglas Brinkley, our thanks to both of you for being part of our coverage.
We continue to see these live images. The president just wrapping up his remark at Arlington National Cemetery. We continue to honor those who have died on this Memorial Day.
I want to welcome our viewers as we roll now into the top of next hour. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
And we are watching a number of developing stories on this Memorial Day. Moments ago, President Trump paying tribute to America's fallen soldiers there at Arlington National Cemetery. This is, of course, the video from earlier when he laid that wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.