Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rep. Franks Welcomes Arizona WWII Veterans at National WWII Memorial

Franks Welcomes First Ever Arizona "Honor Flight":

Honors Arizona World War II Veterans at National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.

November 4, 2009 - Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-02) today met with Arizona WWII Veterans at the National WWII Memorial as part of Arizona Honor Flight. The mission of Honor Flight transport America’s veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices.

This is the first Honor Flight from Arizona— some veterans have flown to DC with other groups, but this is the first flight based out of Arizona. Honor Flight Arizona currently has over 250 Veterans as members who are signed up to participate in future Honor Flights. Veterans are not allowed to pay for any of the trip, it is by donations and a gift from a grateful Arizona. Top priority is given to America’s most senior and frail veterans – survivors of World War II or any vet with a terminal illness who wishes to visit his or her memorial.

Congressman Franks addressed the Honor Flight group during a simple recognition ceremony at the WWII's Memorial's Arizona pillar, followed by the placing of a wreath at the Arizona pillar by Mr. Robert Ballanger, a Purple-heart and Bronze Star decorated WWII Veteran who lives in Sun City, AZ. Mr. Ballanger was accompanied by his two sons, Greg and Gary, who are also veterans, in laying the wreath.

Congressman Franks' remarks as prepared, as well as pictures of the event, are below.

"Welcome again to all of you on this beautiful day at what is truly one of the most majestic monuments in this great city. It is majestic not only because of the fine architecture and strong presence, but for what it represents for each of you standing here today, the 16 million who served in the armed forces during World War II and the more than 400,000 who died. There are no words I can say to express what your service has meant for our great nation.

"This memorial is said to be symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century -- a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people to the common defense of the nation and to the broader causes of peace and freedom from tyranny throughout the world -- a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power that can flow when a free people are at once united and bonded together in a common and just cause.

"This memorial stands as a reminder of American resolve -- a memorial, that now more than ever, speaks to the men and women who serve today, and all Americans who love and support them. This memorial stands for the sacrifices of Americans who served and the people who supported them back home, all for the cause of human freedom in a land so far away. Our nation understood at that time in our history that we could not stand alone on our own soil and watch as tyranny and oppression ruled thousands of miles away and innocent lives were destroyed.

"Had it not been for you, those who served beside you, and those who never returned home, we would live in a much different world today -- a much darker place where hope, peace, and freedom are just words. For these reasons, yours truly is "The Greatest Generation."

"To quote former President George W. Bush when he addressed the thousands of WWII Veterans gathered at the dedication of this memorial, "[Speaking of the soldiers who served] They came from city streets and prairie towns, from public high schools and West Point. They were a modest bunch, and still are. Americans in uniform served bravely, fought fiercely and kept their honor, even under the worst of conditions. Yet they were not warriors by nature. All they wanted was to finish the job and make it home. These were the modest sons of a peaceful country, and millions of us are very proud to call them "Dad." They gave the best years of their lives to the greatest mission their country ever accepted. They faced the most extreme danger, which took some and spared others for reasons only known to God. And wherever they advanced or touched ground, they are remembered for their goodness and their decency."

"I often remind people that American soldiers, unlike the enemy we fight today, doesn't fight because he hates what's in front of him, he fights because he loves what's behind him. Your sacrifice and service is such a testimony to that truth. Thank you for making this journey and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your very special day."

[Begin wreath laying ceremony]

"Now, if we could please... Mr. Robert Ballanger, if you and your two sons, Greg and Gary -- both Vietnam Veterans -- would please come forward to place the wreath. We will follow with a moment of silence for all those who have served, those who never had the honor of returning home, and all of the brave men and women who continue to serve today.

[Moment of silence]

"Thank you Mr. Ballanger, Greg and Gary. What a blessing for the three of you to get to share in this experience together.

"Before we depart, I'd just like to say a heartfelt thank you to the Honor Flight Network, all Honor Flight supporters throughout the State of Arizona, and those of you, Susan Howe and David Frazier, who have taken the lead for Arizona's first Honor Flight trip. What started as a dream has become an absolutely phenomenal program. With the continued support of grateful Americans, by the end of this November the Honor Flight Network will have transported more than 42,165 veterans of World War II, Korea and Viet Nam to see the memorials built to honor their suffering and sacrifice to keep this great nation free and a world leader. I dare say this is probably 40,000 veterans who might not have had the opportunity to see their memorial, so again, I offer great thanks to the Honor Flight Network.

"Enjoy the rest of your visit here in Washington, DC, and again, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your very special day. God Bless."

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