By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
March 13, 2008 - Congressional leaders honored U.S. troops who have served in Iraq and elsewhere around the world during a bipartisan remembrance ceremony here today in the Capitol Rotunda. During the ceremony, which marked the upcoming fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, the Congress members extended praise and appreciation to all U.S. servicemembers, emphasizing that their support for the troops transcends political lines.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, speaker of the House, opened the ceremony by lauding servicemembers who responded without delay when their nation called.
"When sent into battle, they performed their duties effectively with bravery, dignity and honor that are the hallmark of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines," she said. "After five years of the war in Iraq and more than six in Afghanistan, the selflessness of our heroes continues to make us proud."
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, acknowledged the ongoing debate about the future of war in Iraq and overall war on terror.
"There is passion and seriousness and patriotism on both sides," he said. "Yet one thing is certain: The men and women of our military have done their jobs. Their purpose is just. And on this day of remembrance, in this place of honor, we thank all who have served."
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, emphasized that today's ceremony rose above any political differences.
"Today we stand together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, all to honor every airman, soldier, sailor and Marine who has served and every American hero who has perished in that far-off land of Iraq," he said.
Reid joined the other leaders in extending his recognition to troops who have served in Afghanistan. "We could not possibly honor our troops with words to match the honor of their brave action," he said.
Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, House minority leader, thanked troops following in the footsteps of those who have served the country throughout its history.
"The men and women of our military and their families are our nation's greatest heroes, and their incredible accomplishments are indeed a cause for celebration," he said. "Their achievements are too numerous to count and too widespread to fully catalogue. The least we can do is to take time from our daily routine to stop, to think, and to express our thanks and gratitude for the sacrifices our military (and their) families ... continue to make."
The lawmakers paid special tribute to wounded troops and the families of those who have died serving their country.
"We honor the service of our men and women in uniform of our armed services, those who have returned home, and their brothers and sisters in arms we've lost," Pelosi said. "We mourn every day."
"We honor their parents, children, husbands, wives and friends, those they loved and those who loved them," Reid added. "They too bear a heavy burden in service to the ideals we cherish."
McConnell said those who sacrificed did so because "they loved their families and believed their service would keep their families safe."
"We've been humbled by the sacrifice of so many Americans," he said. "And today we recommit ourselves to their service, to the care of those who have returned and to the full support of those who fight."
All the speakers expressed hope for a time of peace.
Pelosi looked to the statue of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who expressed hope for a future when people can live together in peace. "In the spirit of his farewell prayer, we seek to end conflict, to promote peace and to build a future worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform," she said.
McConnell said America's servicemembers are helping to secure that peace. "On this day of remembrance, we can be sure that as long as good and generous souls rise up to defend America, the world can hope for days of peace to come," he said.