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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 18, 2000
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT,
                          U.S.ATLANTIC FLEET,
                          ADMIRAL VERN CLARK,
                       CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS,
                     THE HONORABLE RICHARD DANZIG,
                         SECRETARY OF THE NAVY,
                         GENERAL HUGH SHELTON,

                                Pier 12
                           Norfolk, Virginia

11:06 A.M. EDT

ADMIRAL NATTER: Mr. President; distinguished Members of Congress; Secretary Cohen; Attorney General Reno; Secretary Perry and Mrs. Perry, who is sponsor for USS Cole; Secretary Danzig; General Shelton; General Jones, Admiral Clark; General Franks; General Ternan (phonetic); distinguished Flag General and Allied Officers; neighbors of the Hampton Roads community; Sailors and Marines of the Atlantic Fleet; ladies and gentlemen; and especially, families and Sailors of USS Cole. Good morning.

I know many of you have traveled long distances and have had to endure some tearful and anxious days. Thank you for being here. And, thank you, Mr. President, for rushing back from your critically important duties in the Middle East to be with our Sailors and our Cole family. I know your presence here today has been, and is, comforting to all of them.

Earlier this week, many of us in Norfolk and Hampton Roads participated in the dedication of a Navy homecoming statue. This statue, "A Sailor And His Family," represents the joy of a Sailor's reunion with his family after completing a ship's long deployment.

That statue in downtown Norfolk symbolizes so very well the sacrifices of our Sailors and families in their service to country. And today's ceremony reminds us that a joyful homecoming by our men and women who go down in the sea in ships can never be taken for granted. Daily, they face the dangers of life at sea and willingly so; for, they recognize that there is no higher calling than that of service to our country.

Today, we gather and pause as a nation, as a Navy, and as a family, to remember and honor our shipmates in Cole. We remember and honor their courage, and we remember and honor their service. But most of all, we remember and honor their answering of that highest call. And we remember and honor their ultimate sacrifice.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, when it comes time for our response, remember the Cole.

ADMIRAL CLARK: This is one of those times when shock and anger, then respect, great appreciation, then emptiness, and then sadness -- all of these emotions, these feelings, are felt in such a profound way that we find ourselves reaching for the right words to comfort the wounded hearts, to ease the pain and grief of families, friends, shipmates.

Shipmates -- young men and women, so suddenly torn from this world. Well, words fail us, but our feelings are pure. We feel the hurt. We feel the tears. We feel the loss and the pain. Two hundred and twenty-four years ago, Thomas Payne talked about freedom. Remember these words: "What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives everything its value."

And then he goes on to say: "Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods, and it would be strange, indeed, if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. Dearness gives everything its value."

And the dearness of the 17 men and women that we moralize today causes us to remember that freedom and the values that we find most important sometimes come at a very high price.

In our Navy, our common mission of service to country binds us closely to one another. There are several hundred thousand Sailors and families in our Navy. But there's only one Navy crew and one Navy family. This tragic loss has saddened us and it has hurt each and every one of us.

The Sailors that we remember today made the ultimate sacrifice for service to the United States of America. And they remind us all what it really means to go in harm's way. Our profession is demanding. Some days, it's really exciting. It's rewarding. But it is also dangerous.

We practice our trade on seas that can be calm and serene, but knows neither pity nor remorse. We represent our nation on those seas that are both friendly and sometimes hostile. We live with hazard and risk -- every day, on every mission.

When people ask me: How are our Sailors really doing? I often say: Do you know the way to find out? Call their moms. Call their dads. See what they're telling them. You'll find out how they really are.

I'm taken by one e-mail that came from one of our fallen Sailors. And it said: "Mom, we're in dangerous waters, but I'm okay." There was some trepidation in those words, but there was also a lot of faith. Many of us know that feeling -- going into a combat zone for the very first time. But the key point is, the men and the women of the United States Ship Cole, they understood that they were heading into harm's way. They also knew that what they were doing was very important, that what they were doing really mattered.

I've said it everywhere: The USS Cole has a great crew. Their captain regularly challenged them to live lives of consequence and to make a difference. The wonderful stories that we are reading about them now, these men and women, tell us that is exactly what they wanted -- to make a difference.

They gave themselves for our country. But let us remember this: They also lived for our country. And they were giving their lives every day, from boot camp, through extensive training and preparation for this deployment, all the way up to that moment six days ago.

And their service gives special meaning and honor to their lives, these young men and women. The heroes of Cole achieved what they were reaching for. They made a difference -- on their ship, with their shipmates, and in our Navy. And forever in our history. May they rest in peace.

SECRETARY DANZIG: One of the reasons that I love America is because it loves its citizens. In other times, and on this very day in other places, people are regarded as means and not ends, as fodder, stepping stones, dispensable assets. Because we are not like that, we grieve today. We see in the 17 people who died on October 12th, 17 wonders, 17 sons and daughters. We mourn brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, and those who will never be mothers and fathers.

Seventeen unique people. We cherish them. We grieve because we couldn't protect them. Instead, they died protecting us. That we live in America is, in itself, an act of grace. We came to it naturally. We were born into it. Or, we were welcomed as immigrants. We were naturalized.

By either route, America has been, for every one of us, a gift. And what a stupendous gift. A country that was built collectively, but cherishes us individually. A country built of the effort of servicemen and statesmen, farmers and factory workers, those who toiled on the railroad and those who bankrolled it.

Our philosophers, our politicians, our priests, all together, created something bigger than any of us. And then, they gave it to us. Any true gift is infused with opportunity and responsibility that arises from that opportunity. An inherent talent, a good education, money in the bank -- they all cried as a recipient: What will you make of this? What will you do individually? What will we do collectively in light of how many have done so much for us?

These 17 answered that question. They didn't opt just for themselves, they didn't stay home, they didn't turn away from their country. They put themselves out there. They joined the family of the United States Navy and the USS Cole -- a ship, the very essence of a group enterprise.

And think not just of these 17. Think of the 39 who were injured. And then think of the 240 beyond them. The 240 who absorbed the shock of the explosion, who saw the death of 17, the injury of two score, but who turned to and fought on. Fought together for their ship and for their shipmates.

For two days, two nights, they fought under the most extreme conditions: blood, bent and broken steel, flooding, uncertainty and danger. They saved their ship, their injured, every one of them, and each other. And then their generators failed. The waters rose and they had to do it all over again. Waist-deep in water, manning bucket brigades by hand, they did it again.

Amidst all of that, their captain said to me: "Mr, Secretary, we will save this ship. We will repair this ship. We will take this ship home, and we will sail this ship again to sea."

In every gift, there is a responsibility. The Cole has given us a gift. The 17 join more than 1.3 million servicemen and women who have given us their lives. Thirty-nine from the Cole were injured, 240 fought on. All together, they added a building block to America. Will we, as recipients of this gift, live up to them. I think we will. We're America. Thank you, Cole.

GENERAL SHELTON: Mr. President; distinguished Members of Congress; Secretary Cohen; Secretary Danzig; families; friends and other distinguished guests; fellow members of our Armed Forces. Last week, we lost a part of America, a part of ourselves, and a part of our family.

But while the USS Cole belonged to the Cole and Navy families, they are also part of a much larger family. They are now and forever more, a part of the family of patriots that has made our nation the greatest country on earth. They are now with those patriots who gave of themselves for freedom, who gave of themselves for our way of life, and who freely answered our nation's call to duty. For our tomorrow, they gave their today.

For, all of us who have won or who wear the uniform of our nation's fighting forces, join you in feeling this loss. We will never forget those brave men and women who sailed into harm's way and who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom. And those who perpetrated this act of terror should also never forget that America's memory is long and our reach longer.

Today, we also remember that there are thousands of men and women at sea, just as there are Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen on patrol and on watch, protecting America's interests. Americans who put service above self, and patriotism above profit.

At Arlington National Cemetery, there is a particular appropriate inscription. It reads: "Not for fame or reward, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, and died."

The men and women of the USS Cole, whom we honor today, truly understood this call to duty, this call to service and to America. May God bless them and keep them, and may God be with their families.

ADMIRAL NATTER: (Reads a passage from The New Testament.) "See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God, and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it didn't know him. Beloved, we are God's children now. It does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is."

SECRETARY COHEN: President Clinton; Mrs. Clinton; Chelsea; Chairman Shelton and Carolyn; Janet; and our Navy leadership; and, most importantly, the families and the friends of the brave Sailors that we honor today. It's been said already, but today is a moment of profound grief and melancholy, one in which we publicly express our sadness, our love, our loss and our resolve.

It's impossible for us to cauterize the wound that's been inflicted upon the soul of the families and upon this country. And at these times, words always seem too shallow to contain the depth of our sorrow, too thin to hold the pain of our loss, and too measured to reflect the rage in our hearts. They can only hope to speak to our love for those who love life, who took pride in the Navy, who found joy and meaning in their service to our country, who wore their patriotism with pride and with a humility borne in the wellspring of hope for a better future for themselves and their families and for mankind itself.

Death snatched them away in one violent, unsuspecting moment, while they were making sure that the American people and our friends moved easily in a dangerous world. Each day, we're able to sleep safely under this blanket of freedom because of those who wear our nation's uniform, they're prepared to surrender life itself in the defense of liberty.

And everyone here at home and abroad, all who cherish and rejoice in the freedoms that we enjoy, they should pause and say a prayer for the sons and daughters that we've lost and those who are missing and those who are wounded, for their unbridled courage, for their unbounded hope, for their immeasurable sacrifice and for that of those who face danger every day with pride and devotion to duty. No one -- no one should ever pass up an American in uniform without saying, thank you, we're grateful. Always mindful that they are prepared to risk all of their dreams, so that all of us can reach and realize ours.

There was a Civil War hero who said, "There's no guarantee of safety in peace, and there is no inevitability of death in war." But we are certain of this much: that those men and women who were taken from us were taken in the very flower of their youth in an act of pure evil. And we are certain of one thing more. To those who organized and orchestrated this barbarous act, you are on notice that our search for you will be relentless, that America will not rest until we find you and the long arm of justice reaches out, however long, however far, and makes you pay for this crime.

Senator Kennedy, when President Kennedy's son, John, was christened, I remember reading that an ambassador from Ireland presented him with an engraved cup and a poem that was, in truth, a prayer: "And when the storms break for him, may the trees shake for him their blossoms down. And in the night that he is troubled, may a friend wait for him so that his time be doubled. And in the end of all loving and loved, may the man above give him a crown."

To those families, those who are here today, those who have been taken from us, they live on. They live in our hearts, they live in our souls, they live in eternity itself. And when we're all joined together with them, as one day we must, we know they'll be wearing not a Sailor's cap, but a shining crown.

THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Cohen; General Reno; Secretary Danzig; General Shelton; distinguished Members of the Senate and House; Governor; Admiral Clark; Admiral Natter; Chaplain Black, Master Chief Herdt; Master Chief Hefty; the sailors of the USS Cole; the family members and friends; the Norfolk Naval community; my fellow Americans.

Today, we honor our finest young people; fallen soldiers who rose to freedom's challenge. We mourn their loss, celebrate their lives, offer the love and prayers of a grateful nation to their families.

For those of us who have to speak here, we are all mindful of the limits of our poor words to lift your spirits or warm your hearts. We know that God has given us the gift of reaching our middle years. And we now have to pray for your children, your husbands, your wives, your brothers, your sisters, who were taken so young. We know we will never know them as you did or remember them as you will; the first time you saw them in uniform, or the last time you said goodbye.

They all had their own stories and their own dreams. We Americans have learned something about each and every one of them over these last difficult days as their profiles, their lives, their loves, their service, have been given to us. For me, I learned a little more when I met with all the families this morning.

Some follow the family tradition of Navy service; others hoped to use their service to earn a college degree. One of them had even worked for me in the White House. Richard Costelow was a technology wizard who helped to update the White House communications system for this new century.

All these very different Americans, all with their different stories, their lifelines and love ties, answered the same call of service and found themselves on the USS Cole, headed for the Persian Gulf, where our forces are working to keep peace and stability in a region that could explode and disrupt the entire world.

Their tragic loss reminds us that even when America is not at war, the men and women of our military still risk their lives for peace. I am quite sure history will record in great detail our triumphs in battle, but I regret that no one will ever be able to write a full account of the wars we never fought, the losses we never suffered, the tears we never shed because men and women like those who were on the USS Cole were standing guard for peace. We should never, ever forget that.

Today, I ask all Americans just to take a moment to thank the men and women of our Armed Forces for a debt we can never repay, whose character and courage, more than even modern weapons, makes our military the strongest in the world. And in particular, I ask us to thank God today for the lives, the character and courage of the crew of the USS Cole, including the wounded and especially those we lost or are missing:

Hull Maintenance Technician Third Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter; Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer First Class Richard Costelow; Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis; Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna; Signalman Seaman Apprentice Cheron Louis Gunn; Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels; Engineman Second Class Mark Ian Nieto; Electronics Warfare Technician Third Class Ronald Scott Owens; Seaman Apprentice Lakiba Nicole Palmer. Engine Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett; Fireman Apprentice Patrick Howard Roy; Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Kevin Shawn Rux; Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Managan Santiago; Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders; Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis, Jr; Ensign Andrew Triplett; Seaman Apprentice Craig Bryan Wibberley.

In the names and faces of those we lost and mourn, the world sees our nation's greatest strength. People in uniform rooted in every race, creed and region on the face of the earth; yet, bound together by a common commitment to freedom and a common pride in being American. That same spirit is living today as the crew of the USS Cole pulls together in a determined struggle to keep the determined warrior afloat.

The idea of common humanity and unity amidst diversity, so purely embodied by those we mourn today, must surely confound the minds of the hate-filled terrorists who killed them. They envy our strength without understanding the values that give us strength. For, for them, it is their way or no way. Their interpretation, twisted though it may be, of a beautiful religious tradition. Their political views, their racial and ethnic views. Their way or no way.

Such people can take innocent life. They have caused your tears and anguish, but they can never heal, or build harmony, or bring people together. That is work only free, law-abiding people can do. People like the sailors of the USS Cole.

To those who attacked them, we say: you will not find a safe harbor. We will find you, and justice will prevail. America will not stop standing guard for peace or freedom or stability in the Middle East and around the world.

But some way, someday, people must learn the lesson of the lives of those we mourn today, of how they worked together, of how they lived together, of how they reached across all the lines that divided them and embraced their common humanity and the common values of freedom and service.

Not far from here, there is a quiet place that honors those who gave their lives in service to our country. Adorning its entrance are words from a poem by Archibald Macleish; not only a tribute to the young we lost, but a summons to those of us left behind. Listen to them. The young no longer speak, but:

     They have a silence that speaks for them at night.
     They say:  we were young, remember us.
     They say:  we have done what we could, but until it is finished, it
is not done.
     They say:  our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean
what you make them.
     They say:  whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a
new hope, we cannot say; it is you who must say this.
     They say:  we leave your our deaths.  Give them their meaning.

     The lives of the men and women we lost on the USS Cole meant so

much to those who loved them, to all Americans, to the cause of freedom. They have given us their deaths. Let us give them their meaning. Their meaning of peace and freedom, of reconciliation and love, of service, endurance and hope. After all they have given us, we must give them their meaning.

I ask now that you join me in a moment of silence and prayer for the lost, the missing, and their grieving families.

(A moment of silence is observed.)

Amen. Thank you, and may God bless you all.

END 11:49 A.M. EDT