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Remarks at SEC Memorial Day Ceremony

May 21, 2019

Good afternoon. Thank you, Matt [Cursio, SEC Veterans Committee Vice Chairman] for your kind introduction.

And thank you to Tobias, for that moving rendition of the National Anthem. As Matt mentioned, Tobias is the son of Darlene Williams in our Office of International Affairs. Thank you both for sharing Tobias’s considerable talents with us all today.

It’s an honor for me to be here and moderate today’s panel. I cannot overstate the importance of the organizations represented here today and the support that they provide to those who have given so much in Service to this country. We would not have the freedom or liberties that we enjoy without the sacrifice of others.

Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. And equally as important, Memorial Day is a day when we honor the family and friends of our fallen heroes. There is a common saying that the hardest job in the military is that of a military spouse. That cannot be emphasized enough when that spouse loses his or her life partner, yet must continue to hold the family together and chart a new path forward. And it goes without saying how heart-wrenching it is for a parent to lose a child.

Today’s panelists have exhibited strength and bravery to draw on their personal tragedy as a call to serve others. Today, we are honored to have three distinguished speakers who have endured losses that most of us cannot begin to fathom. They have lost husbands, and in the case of one our panelists, her son, in the service of our country. They have taken their personal losses as an opportunity to dedicate their lives to organizations and causes that help others coping with lost loved ones. They are truly a source of inspiration. Shortly, I will turn the floor to them to tell their stories. But, first let me briefly introduce them.

Ms. Mona Gunn is the 1st National Vice President of American Gold Star Mothers, which is an organization of Mothers whose sons and daughters served and died while on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States or died as a result of such service.

Ms. Donna Eldridge is the Chair of the Government Relations Committee of the Gold Star Wives of America, which provides assistance and friendship to those who have lost their spouse to a military-related cause of death.

Ms. Emily Munoz is the Director of Health and Wellness Initiatives at TAPS. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offers compassionate care to all those grieving the loss of a military loved one.

We are also honored to have Professor Denver Brunsman from George Washington University on today’s panel. Professor Brunsman, who is himself a veteran of the U.S. Army, will help us to better understand how the sacrifices of those who gave their lives 75 years ago on the beaches and parachute landing zones during the D-Day operations changed the course of World War II, and continue to influence the country today.

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