Duckworth Pays Tribute to Fallen Servicemembers at Chicago Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony
[CHICAGO IL] — Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today paid tribute to our nation’s fallen servicemembers at the City of Chicago’s wreath laying ceremony to commemorate Memorial Day. Duckworth joined City of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Veterans and servicemembers to honor local Gold Star families and remember loved ones who were killed in the line of duty. Photos of today’s event are available here.
“Wars are not fought by faceless, nameless troops,” Duckworth said. “They are fought by our neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers who answered the call for democracy. They leave behind grieving families deserving our respect and support. And while they may not be with us today, their memories and their legacies live on not just this weekend, but every day. And what we can do—those of us who survive—is to continue the commitment to our democracy, to pass that legacy on and to strive for a more perfect union. This Memorial Day, I hope you will join me in not just thinking about those warriors who sacrificed for this nation and this state, but also honor the sacrifices of our fallen heroes by acting in service of others. And remember, by talking about them, we keep them alive with us.”
Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Duckworth is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which has jurisdiction over the nation’s common defense, military operations, servicemember pay and retirement, military family benefits and the selective service system.
Duckworth’s full remarks as delivered below:
Well, good morning everyone!
I feel like we go through a Memorial Day here when it's blazing hot, followed by a couple of frigid, freezing, windy, cold and then we get one good one every fourth year. And this is such a great day.
I just want to say hi – I see some folks that we've not quite yet acknowledged yet. State Treasurer Michael Frerichs was here. Oh, there he is, standing in the shade. You’ve been a great partner on a lot of issues that deal with Veterans and especially disabled veterans with the ABLE Act.
Also, Anna Valencia is here as well. Lots of folks. Welcome. Welcome to this wonderful day here in Daley Plaza on Memorial Day.
Thank you to Mayor Lightfoot for having me here today. It's always an important way for me to start the weekend.
I'm honored to join our servicemembers, Veterans and military families and Gold Star families today. Thank you to all of you for your service and sacrifice.
And I want to touch quickly on the Triple Nickel. I see we have someone here who is one of the original jumpers.
The Triple Nickels, just so you know, were fire jumpers. The original Triple Nickels had with them the Buffalo Soldiers who became the Triple Nickels.
They were stationed in Pendleton Air in Oregon, at a time in 1945, where they were allowed to jump into fires to protect the base and the communities, but nobody would feed them.
In fact, with only two bars and one Chinese restaurant, I think, that would actually feed them.
They are part of a long tradition of honorable service to this country, even as this nation treated them and their families unfairly.
Memorial Day, as we've already mentioned, is a day to honor all those who answered the call of duty not just for themselves and their families or their neighbors. But for democracy.
When you serve, we are coming forward to defend our Constitution and our freedoms for the entire nation, for people who will never know your name, will never know what you went through in your service.
And when you lay down your life in that process, you are laying down your life for an ideal of America, for our Constitution.
For people who will never know your name. Never know to thank you or your loved ones. Never know your sacrifice, but will benefit every single day from it.
And what we can do—those of us who survive—is to continue the commitment to our democracy, to pass that legacy on and to strive for a more perfect union.
Because wars are not fought by faceless, nameless troops.
They are fought by our neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.
They leave behind grieving families deserving of our respect and support.
Memorial Day is both a joyous one and a sad one for me. I think about my buddies who never made it back home. I think of their families and their friends who suffered such a great loss.
And if you know a Gold Star family, go ask them about their loved one who laid down their lives for this great nation.
Ask them what was he like in high school? Did they play football? Was he in the band? Was he a jokester? Was he a prankster? Or was he the quiet kid who just loved books? What was she like? Why did she serve? What drove her to volunteer? Ask those questions.
Because by saying their names, and hearing their stories, we keep them with us.
I, myself, think about Lieutenant Brian Slavenas, who has a CH 47 Chinook driver who used to joke with me because I fly Blackhawks and he flew CH 47s.
He used to say to me, the day that a Black Hawk is deemed out of service or needs to be retrieved, it's a Chinook that comes in and gets it out.
And then he would grin this big wide smile at me. And I'd be like, yeah, that's true. It's true. You just chop off the Blackhawk’s blades and then they pick it up.
Makes me think of Sergeant First Class Bill Cheney who served in Vietnam as an air traffic controller and took 15 years off and then rejoined the National Guard later on.
And at 59, went to Iraq with our unit, even though he didn't have to. Because he wanted to make sure you, young bucks didn’t screw things up. Pardon my language.
But it's important that I say that because not only was Bill Cheney the guy who taught me my best swear words in the Army, the man was poetic with his curse words. He should have gotten some sort of a prize.
But he could also fix any Blackhawk. Anything was wrong with the bird, you knew that Bill Cheney was going to get it flying again.
And you knew that if Bill crewed an aircraft, you were going to come home that night, because that aircraft was going to work for you and do what it needed to get the mission done.
We know that Brian and Bill and all the others have joined that great Pantheon from the days of Lexington and Concord to the beaches of Normandy, the Incheon reservoir to those who served during the Tet Offensive to Kandahar and Fallujah of men and women who have served or sacrifice in defense of our great nation.
And while they may not be here with us today, their memories and their legacies live on.
Not just on Memorial Day, but every day.
This Memorial Day, I hope you will join me in not just thinking about those warriors who sacrificed for this nation and this state, but also honor the sacrifices of our fallen heroes by acting in service of others.
Go volunteer, go do something.
And remember by talking about them, we keep them alive with us.
God bless our Veterans. God bless our troops are in harm's way right now. For those who are in Ukraine, Slava Ukraini.
And always, God bless the United States of America.
Next Article Previous Article