Honoring WWII Vets at The Roi Namur Battlefield

At the VFW Hall last night, we saw photos of Mr. Sonner and Mr. Sousa from the 1940’s. Burl Sousa’s son, Bob, said, “that’s when they thought they were ten feet tall and bulletproof. Well, Mr. Sonner and Mr. Sousa, we think you are still ten feet tall and bulletproof!

We’ve read the books and seen the movies, but the only people who can really understand what happened here, are those who were here 70 years ago.

The images the veterans have of the battles are ones that don’t diminish with age and can’t be improved upon by Hollywood, Tom Hanks notwithstanding.

But even if we can’t imagine storming a beach under a hail of machine gun fire, we can appreciate that the world we live in, the problems we work to solve, are made possible by their success.

Had they not made the sacrifices and had the courage to persevere, the problems we would face today would be many magnitudes greater.

We’re privileged to still have an opportunity to lead in the world. The democratic nations of the world, the U.S., RMI, our friends in the Pacific, still hold the ideals they fought for, and that we will still fight for.

Some of you visiting may not know that young men and women from Marshalls join the U.S. military at a higher rate than any U.S. state. Why? I think in part because we all share the vision of a more peaceful, prosperous, democratic world.

There was no inevitability about success in the Pacific. Every victory came the hard way, with hard lessons, and losses along the way. The U.S. faced a smart, adaptable and courageous adversary that has become one of our best friends.

But it’s always the hard way.

Marshallese also had to make hard choices during the water, and many risked their lives to point out where Japanese fighters were bunkered.

It’ an honor to commemorate this day with the veterans. Part of our responsibility at the Embassy is reminding Americans what happened here in the Pacific.

We hope President Loeak will visit Washington soon, to renew acquaintances and to remind, and perhaps inform people, of the historic role these islands have played in world history.

Again, it’s a testament to the success of WWII, that we have such a hard time imagining war in this beautiful setting.

We went through the Cold War, and the nuclear testing in the Marshalls that helped fend off a war with Soviets. And the world today is more secure, and closer to a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

For everyone who fought here, there’s a story. We’ll know just a few, but we can honor the sacrifice, the bravery, and the steadfast belief of all those who were here then, especially the men here today, and we thank those who are not here today.