Speeches by Jim
Remarks by Former Senator Jim Webb – Lost Soldiers Ceremony
Westminster, California 26 October, 2019
This has been and will continue to be a very special day. It is an historic day and we are grateful to all of you for coming here to be a part of it, and for our distinguished guests who have shared their memories and their thoughts.
It’s a great honor to be remembering the service of these 81 proud Airborne soldiers as well as their long journey to eternal peace. They were among the best that the military of South Vietnam had to offer. We remember them today for their courage and for their ultimate sacrifice.
I would also like to offer my thanks and respect for their fellow Airborne soldiers, so many of whom have joined us today for this special remembrance. So I would ask the members of the Gia Dinh Mu Do who are with us today to stand and be recognized. Thank you.
The long, epic journey of these 81 lost soldiers from Vietnam to Thailand to Hawaii and finally to here, where they will forever remain, makes their cause unique. After 54 years they have reached their eternal resting place. That liberation from the bleak unknown to a respected place here in America brings us together to salute them and to honor them as they are finally laid to rest.
But their journey and this celebration is also more than that. Let us remember that their fate was shared by many other soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines from among the more than 200,000 South Vietnamese and the more than 58,000 Americans who died during that long-ago war. And thousands of those soldiers who were lost on different battlefields may never be found. So in their memory we will treasure the remains that are with us, and the honor that we are able to render, on behalf of all of those who were lost and will never be found.
Today, we will also remember the living. There are people here who fought long and hard on the battlefield of that difficult war. After the war ended, some then spent many years away from their loved ones in the harsh prisons of re-education camps.
There are people here today who risked their lives on fragile boats in the unknown of the open sea, and then, luckily, found their way to refugee camps, and from those camps, into the open society of America, where they and their children worked and studied and succeeded and demonstrated to the world the power of the Vietnamese culture when it is unleashed in an open and free society. And along the way, all of you have helped to make America a better place.
There are people here today, like myself, who had the honor of serving our country on some very harsh battlefields in another country, not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, as Americans, dedicated to the pursuit of freedom.
All of us, I believe, share one common passion. We believe in the Vietnamese people, in their historical traditions, in the power of their culture, and in the vital importance of Vietnam to America, and of America to Vietnam.
All of us here are also very fortunate. Unlike millions of others on both sides and some caught in the middle of that war, we survived.
And it is for this reason more than any other that we are here today: to remember those who did not survive.
And these lost soldiers paid the highest price.
They made the longest journey.
They have finally come home from the war, to a place very few of them ever even knew, but they will rest peacefully among people who now know this place, and who remember them with respect and dignity.
One hundred years from now – two hundred years from now – for as long as there is an America – they will be here among us. Their story will be told and retold. Like the story of so many people who are here today after the struggles of war and the peril of becoming refugees out on the open sea, the story of their loss on a long-ago battlefield is a permanent part of Vietnam’s history, and the story of their salvation is now a permanent part of America’s history.
Their long journey is over. They have come home, not to the towns or villages where they were born, but here in America, to a community that remembers them, and respects them. And here in the cemetery of Westminster California, our families and our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren will forever honor them. For the rest of us, those who survived, let us all remember that the war we fought and the losses we endured are behind us. But the reasons will always be with us. The importance of Vietnam to America, and of America to Vietnam. The cause of freedom, and the liberation of one’s soul when we commit to the importance of its liberation from the bonds of servitude.
There was a saying among many American soldiers so many years ago on that misunderstood battlefield: “For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor that the protected will never know.” That truth rings especially true not only for those who fought for it, but also for those who lost a loved one on that long ago battlefield. And for those who endured years of isolation and humiliation in the reeducation camps that followed. And for those who set out on the open sea to seek it, not knowing whether they would be dead or on their way to a refugee camp that might possibly bring them to America.
That is the power of the Vietnamese culture. And that is the magic of this special place we simply call America.
God rest these brave, never more to be forgotten soldiers. From this day forward, the people of two nations will remember and honor them. And we will never forget their sacrifice.