President Obama comforts a relative of one of the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shootings at a memorial service at Marine Barracks, Washington
Secretary Hagel, Secretary Mabus, Admirals Greenert and Hilarides, Mayor Gray, leaders from across this city and our Armed Forces, to all the outstanding first responders, and, most of all, the families whose hearts have been broken — we cannot begin to comprehend your loss. We know that no words we offer today are equal to the magnitude, to the depths of that loss. But we come together as a grateful nation to honor your loved ones, to grieve with you, and to offer, as best we can, some solace and comfort.
On the night that we lost Martin Luther King Jr. to a gunman’s bullet, Robert Kennedy stood before a stunned and angry crowd in Indianapolis and he broke the terrible news. And in the anguish of that moment, he turned to the words of an ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” Pain which cannot forget — drop by drop upon the heart.
The tragedy and the pain that brings us here today is extraordinary. It is unique. The lives that were taken from us were unique. The memories their loved ones carry are unique, and they will carry them and endure long after the news cameras are gone. But part of what wears on as well is the sense that this has happened before. Part of what wears on us, what troubles us so deeply as we gather here today, is how this senseless violence that took place in the Navy Yard echoes other recent tragedies.
As President, I have now grieved with five American communities ripped apart by mass violence. Fort Hood. Tucson. Aurora. Sandy Hook. And now, the Washington Navy Yard. And these mass shootings occur against a backdrop of daily tragedies, as an epidemic of gun violence tears apart communities across America — from the streets of Chicago to neighborhoods not far from here.
And so, once again, we remember our fellow Americans who were just going about their day doing their jobs, doing what they loved — in this case, the unheralded work that keeps our country strong and our Navy the finest fleet in the world. These patriots doing their work that they were so proud of, and who have now been taken away from us by unspeakable violence.
GETTYSBURG, PA.The autograph hounds waiting expectantly in a hotel lobby weren’t drawn by actors, musicians or politicians, but by a few dozen men whose rare and distinguished achievements have earned them the nation’s highest military honor.
Nearly half of the 79 living recipients of Medal of Honor are attending the gathering in Gettysburg, where some of its first recipients fought 150 years ago.
The Medal of Honor Society annual convention gives the public an opportunity to collect the signatures of the men who have been honored by Congress for risking their lives beyond the call of duty in combat, and dozens of people waited Thursday for them to return from a luncheon at a nearby farm once owned by President Dwight Eisenhower.
Dave Loether, 62, a computer analyst from Pittsburgh, was hoping to add to the 55 signatures of Medal of Honor recipients he has collected on a U.S. Army flag. Loether knows many of their faces by sight — and their stories by heart.
”It’s a piece of cloth with some ink on it — it’s worthless,” Loether said. “On the other hand, it’s priceless.”
The men who hold the highest honor of valor in the land – the recipients of the Medal of Honor – are not known for easily capitulating, but on Thursday they gave in to the demands of their stature to grant admirers a piece of themselves for posterity – their autographs.
Mary Edwards Walker, a Union Army surgeon in the Civil War, the only woman to receive the medal, died in 1919.
Approximately 48 recipients of the Medal of Honor made themselves available to appease the yearning of fans for autographs, handshakes and photos at the second day of the weeklong Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s convention in Gettysburg.