I am very honored to be here today as a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Norwood and the citizens of Pflugerville, Texas.
To someone who does not understand those who serve in the military and their families, our task here today might seem odd. We are here today to begin the process of creating a memorial in order to maintain in our memories-- to remind us lest we ever forget -- the most horrible of human acts--the act of war.
But we know that we are not here to memorialize war itself. We do it, partly to remember our fallen brethren and loved ones, but mostly I hope that we do it so that we and our posterity many years from now may honor their memories and contributions with continued service. We create a memorial to honor the memory of those who served and paid the highest sacrifice in service to their nation- not just because they chose to fight, or simply because, tragically, they died- but rather what they served and lived for…
I hope that the groundbreaking and creation of this war memorial in Pflugerville will ultimately serve as a groundbreaking of another sort, a less tangible one. I hope that this groundbreaking will ultimately lead to a dedication, a memorial, if you will, built from our own contributions and service to a higher cause. The contributions the young and future citizens of Pflugerville make to our Nation and the world will be the real memorial to these brave men and women.
Years from now, a small wide eyed child, hand in his father’s palm, will point toward the bronze warriors and ask what that is or maybe who they are. And the child will be regaled with stories of how a young doughboy left his home to travel far away and make his mark on the world. Or maybe how a young GI lied about his age, picked up a Garand and liberated Europe or fought like hell across the entire expanse of the Pacific to keep our nation safe. Or maybe how a young Marine, like Sergeant Norwood marched off to the desert, liberated a nation and SUCCESSFULLY brought freedom, peace, prosperity, and a better future to the Iraqi people and a model for neighboring countries throughout the region. And as that child listens to his father’s voice and stares wide eyed at the bronze statues, he’ll feel a slight groundbreaking inside and wonder what his own contribution might be.
In saying this, we must be careful not to glorify war through the construction of a memorial. Throughout our great Nation’s history our enemies have mislead their youth to war through tyranny, myth and grand propaganda in an attempt to impose their will upon the world. In Fallujah, we bore witness to this- young Arab men recruited into the ranks of insurgent groups by radical Islamic leaders. These leaders- and I use that term loosely fled the city prior to our assault. Left with stockpiles of adrenaline, methamphetamines, and even cocaine, these young recruits were abandoned with little food, water, or ammunition and told to fight the 1st Marine Division.
I thought of the young enemy men who died, unnecessarily. They could have been part of the rebuilding, creating families and a better future long after we Americans leave. Instead, they were recruited through the misrepresentation of Islam and died for the cause of murderers and tyrants.
I fought alongside and led Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah, men who are the true standard bearers of their faith. The Iraqis I fought with are considered the true Mujahadeen or holy warriors. Sergeant Norwood, who also worked closely with some brave Iraqis, would agree. It is interesting that many Iraqis now refer to the insurgents or false Mujahadeen as munafakin, which means hypocrites. When combat operations were complete and civilians re-entered the city- we witnessed the citizens of Fallujah celebrating- sometimes on the rubble of what were once their own homes, the departure of the terrorists and the munafakins from their city.
The men we honor here today - the American soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine - marched off to war for very different reasons than the adversaries they fought throughout our Nation’s history. And when they arrived on their respective battlefields they fought for even better ones. These men enlisted for lofty ideals, but when they arrived on their battlefield they fought for a much more sublime one- love for the man on their left and on their right.
As a young man Byron probably heard stories of his grandfathers' exploits in World War II and of ….He was a patriot with a good soul and limitless potential in any task he set his talents and heart to. The Marine Corps became his choice of service to fulfill his patriotic ideals and duties. I had the pleasure and great honor to serve with Sergeant Byron Norwood. And as someone who was in a leadership position above him, I can honestly say that Byron led his leaders. There are two types of young men who join our beloved Corps- those who join to become men and those who arrive as men- Sergeant Norwood was the latter, no doubt to the influence of his parents, who serve as models of strength and of courage and of love for the men of Weapons Company, 3/1. Byron quickly became a trusted confidant and good friend. He showed a young Lieutenant the ropes and made sure that I did not make a fool of myself throughout the first few days…and the first few weeks…and onto the months that followed.
In Iraq, Sergeant Norwood requested to move from the headquarters platoon to the Combined Anti-Armor Team platoon- a platoon of Armored HUMVEES and heavy machine guns with whom he had fought his way up to Baghdad during OIF-I. He wanted to be back with his friends, on the front lines, not to see action and combat, but because he wanted to be with his brothers who he loved. He could not bear to watch them go off and put themselves in danger without him by their side. Sergeant Norwood may have joined the Marine Corps for lofty ideals, but he fought and gave his life because of his love for the Marine he served alongside. Byron showed us that while war may be the embodiment of evil and hell- it is also a place of great love and compassion for one’s fellow man. As John says, “Greater love hath no man, than he who lays down his life for another.”
This memorial will have the infantrymen who heeded the call to our nation’s service poised side by side in the uniforms of their day- each one carrying on the tradition and standard of the last. These statues represent a timeless tradition and unfortunately very necessary one of young Men and Women heading off to war to serve their nation and all the world. THAT is what we honor here today- the contributions, the courage, and the dedication of these young Men and Women, and their families, in the midst of tremendous sacrifice and adversity. Our nation and the world need such men and women, and I hope that this memorial serves as a beacon of service for the young citizens of Pflugerville. This service need not be in the Marine Corps, or the military, but service of some sort to a greater good. To thank our fallen warriors with words or monuments alone would be to forget them; our actions and our lives must pay tribute to the model they provide. That is how we really and tangibly honor the memory of the great men and women who have served and sacrificed- by continuing the tradition of service they have established- that they gave their lives so that we may do something with ours.
Thank you and G_d bless.