VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Expresses Meaning of Memorial Day, Cost of War, Sacrifices of Military Families at Kauaʻi Ceremony to Honor Fallen Heroes

May 30, 2017
Press Release

Hanapepe, HI—A Memorial Day service was held this morning at Kauaʻi Veterans Cemetery, where keynote speaker Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) honored the service and sacrifice of fallen heroes and their families. She spoke about the meaning of Memorial Day, the cost of war, and the sacrifices made by families of deployed servicemembers.

After the ceremony, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard visited Kauai’s last surviving Filipino World War II veteran, ninety-one-year-old Sixto Tabay, thanking him for his service, sharing memories of those he served with, and spending time with his family at their Līhuʻe home.

B-roll, photos from the Memorial Day ceremony and Sixto Tabay visit, and video footage of the following speech excerpts are available here for download.

In her address, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke about the meaning of Memorial Day, saying, “Even with the best of intentions, we often hear people say, ‘Happy Memorial Day,’ without realizing that this day is not such a happy one for so many. Ask any Gold Star family who has gone through the unimaginable loss of a loved one what Memorial Day is all about. They will tell you it's not such a happy day. And they will tell you that this is the day when our country has the opportunity to come together to recognize and honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, spoke about the high cost of war, “While we carry their memories with us always, today is the day set aside every year to gather together, pause, and honor them—their lives, their service, and their sacrifice.  As we are gathering here together on Kauai, people are gathering on every island all across the state, and across the country in places like this, where our heroes have been laid to rest. And on this day, we are reminded of the very high, real high cost of war… and who pays that price. That cost exists in the names on these grave stones. It exists in our hearts with memories of our friends who never came home. It also exists within the unbreakable bond that we as veterans—even of many different generations—have with each other.”

A Member of the House Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke about the sacrifices made by families of deployed service members, “Too often, we have found throughout our country’s history, we have people in positions of power, who make offhanded comments about sending a few thousand troops here, fifty thousand there, a hundred thousand there… intervening militarily here or starting a war there. Without seeming to understand or appreciate the cost of war, or that those numbers they seem to throw around carelessly actually represent real people—someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, mom or dad.  They don’t seem to understand that as these service members say goodbye to their families and loved ones before they deploy, they all go through an experience of knowing in their heart of hearts that it could be their last goodbye. They don’t seem to think about the anxiety that these families live with every day when their loved ones are serving abroad, as they pray for their safe return, and every day dreading that phone call or knock on the door that could forever turn their worlds upside-down.”

A transcript of the congresswoman's remarks is below, and video of her full speech is available here for download.

 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Remarks

2017 Memorial Day Service at Kauaiʻ Veterans Cemetery

Aloha. It’s always a wonderful day to be here on Kauaʻi. I’m especially grateful to be here with all of you today on this special day and in this special place. Ceremonies like the one we are gathered at here today are more important now than ever because we live in a time where too often people look forward to Memorial Day because of a big sale or an extra day off work, a long weekend, and unfortunately, not giving even a thought to what this day is actually all about.

Even with the best of intentions, we often hear people say, “Happy Memorial Day,” without realizing that this day is not such a happy one for so many. Ask any Gold Star family who has gone through the unimaginable loss of a loved one what Memorial Day is all about. They will tell you it's not such a happy day. And they will tell you that this is the day that our country has the opportunity to come together to recognize and honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.

Like many of you, I woke up this morning with a heavy heart, remembering the faces of our friends, of our loved ones, and our memories of them—the last time we shared a laugh, remembering that time in training, or down range when things were so crappy that all you could do was laugh, know that we had each other, and embrace the suck.  And we remember that last roll call when their name was called with no response, as we gave that last salute to their empty boots, helmet, and rifle.

While we carry their memories with us always, today is the day set aside every year to gather together, pause, and honor them—their lives, their service, and their sacrifice.  As we gather here on Kauaʻi, on every island across the state, and all across the country in places like this where our heroes have been laid to rest, on this day, we are reminded of the very real, high cost of war… and who pays that price. That cost exists in the names on these grave stones. It exists in our hearts with memories of our friends who never came home.

It also exists within the unbreakable bond that we as veterans—even of many different generations—have with each other. We can come together, even as total strangers, but know that in one way or another, we have each e experienced the same pain and broken heart of losing a comrade in arms, while simultaneously appreciating the special courage and selflessness that our friends who paid the ultimate price in service to our country embody.

Ever since I was elected to Congress, every year, the week before Memorial Day, there’s a handful of my colleagues and I who go very early in the morning to visit Arlington Memorial Cemetery to pay tribute to our fallen heroes. No media cameras. No crowds. No fanfare. Just a small group of us gathering together, reflecting, and remembering those who have sacrificed all—and the responsibility that we carry as Members of Congress.

This is important. Because too often, we have found throughout our country’s history, we have people in positions of power, who make offhanded comments about sending a few thousand troops here, fifty thousand there, a hundred thousand there… intervening militarily here or starting a war there. Without seeming to understand or appreciate the cost of war, or that those numbers they seem to throw around carelessly actually represent real people—someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, mom or dad.  They don’t seem to understand that as these service members say goodbye to their families and loved ones before they deploy, they all go through an experience of knowing in their heart of hearts that it could be their last goodbye. They don’t seem to think about the anxiety that these families live with every single day when their loved ones are serving abroad, as they pray for their safe return, and every day dreading that phone call or knock on the door that could forever turn their world upside-down.

During my first deployment to Iraq with the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, I did not understand or appreciate the stress that my family went through. I was focused on my mission and doing my job. When I’d call home, and talk to Mom and Dad about what was going on, they didn’t seem to share the same kind of excitement that I was expressing about what I was doing. But when we came home—it was very early in the morning, the plane landed, we stepped off, smelled the beautiful Hawaii trade winds, there was a beautiful pink sky—we had that last formation, and the general released us after what had been a very long eighteen-month deployment. I ran toward my family, and I gave my dad a big hug first… and it was at that moment that it hit me because it was the first time I’d ever seen my dad cry. 

These leaders don't seem to realize that the cost of war is not limited to those who make that ultimate sacrifice. It exists within our veterans who come home with wounds that are both visible and invisible.  It exists within those who survive—oftentimes multiple deployments with very rigorous and tough combat—but who come home only to lose the battle with post-traumatic stress, and take their own lives.

What we must demand of our nation’s leaders as we honor those who have paid the ultimate price, that if our troops are sent to fight a war, it must be the last option, not the first.  You must give them a clear mission and end state.  And make sure that those missions are truly worthy of the great sacrifice that our service members and their families make. This is how we can best honor our brothers and sisters whose lives are lost, as well as those who serve today and in the future.

While we shed tears and share stories of our friends today, honoring and remembering them, celebrating the lives that they lived, let’s remember who they were, their strength, their courage, and their deep love for our country. Let’s make sure that today, and every day, we honor them and make sure that they are never forgotten. Let’s take advantage of the time and the life that each of us has been granted by doing our best to live our own lives of service, making a positive impact on those around us.

I’m grateful to be here to join all of you today to remember all of them. Mahalo.

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Tulsi Gabbard is a member of the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, and her statements are her own. Use of her military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or the Department of the Army.


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