HANOVER, VA – Today, Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07) participated in the Hanover Memorial Day Program honoring those who sacrificed their lives defending our country and those who are currently serving to ensure our freedom. The following remarks are as prepared for delivery:
Thank you to the County of Hanover Parks and Recreation for putting this event together. It is a real privilege to be able to speak on this important occasion.
Today, our nation honors the more than 1 million Americans who gave their lives to the cause of freedom. It is a day to look back with pride, but also a day to look forward. We recognize and pay respect to the enormous human sacrifice that has sustained our nation. And we commit ourselves to doing everything in our power to live a life worthy of that sacrifice.
Throughout our history, the men and women of our armed forces have known long deployments, personal hardship, and separation from friends and family. Many have experienced life-threatening conditions and endured horrible wounds. Some have paid the ultimate price. We honor them today.
We take tremendous pride in the unbroken chain of Americans who have answered their nation’s call. It is a rich legacy that began at Bunker Hill in 1775 and continues to this day in the deserts of Iraq and the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.
This noble tradition is what inspired our courageous Navy SEALs in a perilous mission to destroy Osama Bin Laden. And we can take particular pride that it was a unit from Virginia that reinvigorated our allies and demoralized our enemies.
Memorial Day unofficially traces its roots back to Columbus, Mississippi in 1863. Out of the unspeakable misery of a terrible civil war, emerged a day of compassion.
Anguished mothers, daughters, wives and sisters were placing flowers on the graves of their loved ones. Suddenly, they noticed that nearby union graves had grown untidy and overrun with weeds.
It occurred to them that those fallen soldiers were also loved ones who had family members grieving for them in distant places. So, out of empathy, the women fixed up the union graves and placed flowers on them as well.
At the conclusion of the war, Henry Welles of Waterloo, New York, shut down his drugstore for the day to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers alike. He urged other neighboring shops to do the same.
Then, in 1882, the United States declared its first official Memorial Day.
Today, we carry on the tradition of honoring our fallen warriors. In this past century, America has defeated both fascism and Communism – and offered a more hopeful future based on freedom and liberty.
We are secure in the knowledge of our past hard-earned triumphs and our people’s willingness to pay the ultimate price. That gives us the strength to defeat the new enemies of freedom - whoever they are, and wherever they are.
This region has a rich legacy of both service and sacrifice to our nation. It continues to this very day.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth Clodfelter was a Boy Scout, a member of the Order of the Arrow, and played on his high school football team. He was a volunteer firefighter and he enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Lee-Davis High School. He was among 17 sailors killed when the USS Cole was bombed by terrorists at a port in Yemen on October 12, 2000 in the opening salvo in the war on terror. He was 21 years old.
Army Capt. John Robert Teal, of Mechanicsville, always had a strong passion for our country. In high school, it bothered him how the school would just “throw the flag” up the pole in the morning and pull it right back down at night. So Teal, a national honors society student, he convinced the school to institute a military flag ceremony.
Teal went on to graduate from VMI. In October 2003, Teal was traveling in a convoy about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad when a homemade bomb exploded. Teal was 31 years old.
Army Capt. Shane Timothy Adcock, also of Mechanicsville, was a 1997 graduate of Atlee High and a 2003 graduate of Longwood University. At Atlee, he wrestled and received the Atlee Ruritan Social Development Committee Scholarship.
Capt. Adcock loved the outdoors and had a passion for surfing and rock-climbing. He was very well-liked and was devoted to his wife Jennifer, a Duke University student he married a month before deploying.
On October 11, 2006, he died from injuries suffered from enemy grenade fire in Hawijah, Iraq. He was 27 years old.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy Lee Tinnel, of Mechanicsville, was described by his peers as a deep thinker who was also very active at his church, New Bridge Baptist in eastern Henrico, where he also volunteered for several summers.
But Tinnel was also extremely tough. Months before his death, he was injured by an improvised explosive device. Yet he remained in Iraq and returned to duty after a week’s recovery.
On July 1, 2007, Tinnel was killed while conducting combat operations in the Euphrates River off the shore of Anbar province. He was 20 years old.
Today, we honor these American heroes and all those who have given their lives in the service of our nation. They answered the call to duty and joined the ranks of Virginians who have made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the freedom we enjoy today. They represent the very best of America and may God bless them and their families. They will never be forgotten.
The very existence of these heroes inspires all of us to make more courageous decisions in our lives. It teaches us about love of country. And it motivates us to do everything in our power to continue to build an America worthy of their sacrifice.