Bastogne, Belgium – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Bastogne Veteran Recognition Ceremony, during the bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Belgium and Luxembourg to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Bonsoir. Merci. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for your beautiful, inspiring statement today expressing the appreciation we all have in our hearts.
As you said, this is an emotional time, and we’re all full of emotion and love and respect and gratitude to our veterans from our country and from our friendships.
I too want to thank you for the hospitality of the people of Bastogne. How wonderful they are, the sense of community turning out, the commemoration that you made, not just in words to our veterans, but in so many different tributes to them. And how wonderful that we were able to place wreaths at the tomb of General Patton and then pay our respects to General McAuliffe and experience something new for many of us, giving expression to the brave words of a warrior: ‘Nuts.’ I’d thrown nuts at people [into the crowd].
I think that is a very important story, because it is easy for people to understand when we tell them that in Bastogne, Members of Congress, House and Senate, Generals, high above the people we’re throwing nuts at the crowd of people, and they were happy to receive them — and the narrative that went with them, the courage of General McAuliffe speaking, for his men and women – for his men in uniform at that time. So thank you for affording us this opportunity to participate in appreciation of our veterans in a very, very special way in this very American city in Belgium.
I want to just say what an honor it is to be a bipartisan delegation in the House of Representatives. Bipartisan, and not only that, but we are joined by a bipartisan Senate delegation. That makes it bicameral, bipartisan, agreeing in every way, making the priority to be here to extend our gratitude.
At the World War II Memorial, etched on the wall there is a statement by President Truman. He said, ‘Our debt to our heroic men and valiant women in service of country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.’
Etched one the walls of the World War II Monument, etched on our hearts, etched on our souls. We will never forget. We will never, never forget your sacrifices and the sacrifices of your families as well.
It is a great honor to lead a distinguished bipartisan delegation to Belgium to convey the undying gratitude of the Congress of the United States of the American people to the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge. And with the time allotted to me, I’d like our delegation, our House Members to stand and if the Senate could acknowledge them – their Members to stand.
James Clyburn, Ted Deutch, Mike Conaway, Susan Davis, Stephen Lynch, Jeff Fortenberry, Madam chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Courtney, Mike Quigley, John Garamendi, Paul Cook, Annie Kuster, Don Norcross, Seth Moulton and Tom Suozzi.
Now, I didn’t get to add any adjectives. They’re all very distinguished. They’re all very distinguished Members of Congress.
And let me just say, a few words.
I’m so glad, again, that Senators Boozman and Barrasso, who you will hear from, have made this a bicameral — the whole of the Congress coming together here at this important time.
Again, I want to thank the Mayor, for the enormous hospitability – that is such an inadequate word – to the tribute the Bastogne has put together.
Personally, officially and patriotically, I want to thank our distinguished ambassador, Ambassador Gidwitz, and his wife Christina. You represent us so beautifully here and getting along so well.
I’d also like to acknowledge Ambassador Evans, Ambassador of Luxemburg.
We are all, we are all together in all of this.
We’re humbled, humbled to come here confident and proud of our veterans and happy to do so, while we tread on this sacred ground, sacred ground.
The Battle of the Bulge was one of the greatest acts of American heroism.
Its heroes are forever etched, again, into our nations’ hearts and histories, for helping secure the victory of freedom over tyranny, not only for Europe, but for the world.
We talked about General Patton, General McAuliffe, but each and every one of you and those you served with: tremendous heroes.
On behalf of the House of Representatives, I thank every veteran here and every family member here.
On the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing, I met with some of the veterans when we were in Normandy. I told them that my uncle died on the way to the Battle of the Bulge – what would become the Battle of the Bulge.
And some of those veterans, some of them your peers – I just want to recap some of that conversation — saying: ‘Oh yeah, the Battle of the Bulge. We went there next.’
‘We went there next.’ Imagine that courage: Normandy, everything in between and the Battle of the Bulge, and some of them are here today.
As the Mayor said, this is very emotional. Two of my Members, Ted Deutch and Annie Kuster – their fathers both fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and that’s one of the reasons they are here. Overarching patriotism, as well.
But all, everyone – so many people in America or their families have shared in your heroism, your patriotism by either a family member participating but all of us — very, very appreciative.
Now, today, 75 years after the Battle of the Bulge, we commemorate the courage of the men who braved weeks of bitter winter – people said it was cold today. It wasn’t cold, was it, compared to the cold they went through? That was easy. Who plunged through sleet, snowdrifts and solid fog; and persevered through hunger, fear, confusion and cold.
We remember their sacrifice: honoring the tens of thousands who gave their ‘last full measure of devotion’ and the countless others with injuries, some of which I’ve heard from, and illness.
As we celebrate today their hard-won victory, which was delivered to the world, let us thank them.
And, for all the days to come – we have a solemn responsibility to honor those to whom we owe our freedom.
Some of you have told me you still cry when you see the American flag; it brings tears to your eyes. Some of you have told me injuries that you have sustained. Some of you have told of the encounters that you were engaged in.
All of you have spoken with such strength, such patriotism. I hope you know that when we say thank you, it’s for so much.
You’re so remarkable that here we are, shall we say, a little along the life. Still here remembering the stories, remembering the stories and, again, having some very strong opinions about how we go forward.
So, again, let us express our appreciation. Let us so in a way that unifies our country as we go forward.
The press asked me earlier about the purpose of our visit? Well, any reason, any place we can go to thank our veterans, especially those who served in World War II, we will not miss.
But it’s also about the unity of the coalition that won World War II and what emerged from that to prevent further wars from happening: NATO — I’m so glad that General Walters has been with us today; that collaboration among countries for our freedom in the world.
I’ll just close by saying this, when I was young – very young, in school – I was at President Kennedy’s inauguration. A President who served and was injured in World War II and he said – and everybody knows this in the world, really – he said ‘to citizens of America: ask not what America can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’ which are important words, even today.
But, what I remember on that freezing cold day as a student – now, that was cold – was that he further said, ‘to the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do, working together, for the freedom of mankind.’
And that is exactly what each and every one of you did, working together with each other, our country working with other countries. No condescension, total respect, collaboration for the freedom of mankind.
We all pray that God blesses America all the time. God truly blessed America with our veterans, of the Battle of the Bulge.
Thank you for your courage.
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