Remarks by Ambassador Donnelly at the Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony
Monday, May 30, 2022 – 11:00 a.m. Florence American Cemetery
Good morning, buongiorno.
Deputy Minister of Defense Pucciarelli, Major General Rohling, Commissioner Kemp, Consul General, Mayors, distinguished guests, veterans, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be here with you on this important occasion.
I am particularly grateful to see so many veterans and American, Italian, Sammarinese, and international guests today. Thank you all for joining us for this commemoration of America’s fallen servicemen and women. On Memorial Day, here at the Florence American Cemetery and at U.S. cemeteries around the world, Americans and our friends and allies gather to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
While the pandemic may have prevented us from gathering in person to commemorate Memorial Day together these past two years, it has not prevented us from paying homage to America’s heroes.
Nor has the pandemic prevented continued advancements in the great partnerships between the United States and Italy. World War II is one of the most difficult yet transformational chapters of our shared history. Then — as is now occurring in Ukraine — the shared democratic values we enjoy today were under attack. And then, as now, together we are steadfast in our resolve to stand up for freedom.
As I look at the nearly four and a half thousand graves before us, and the over one thousand four hundred names inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing here behind me, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that every name and every marker represents a young life lost, and a family back home that lost a son or a daughter, a brother or sister, a husband or wife, or a Mom or Dad.
Being here today touches me deeply on a personal level. In my office at the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican, I keep a flag from my uncle Tom Donnelly, who was part of Patton’s army and was wounded in North Africa. My uncle was proud to serve because he got to defend the United States. He was so proud to fight for America. because he got to defend the United States of America. He was so proud to fight for the United States.
I was privileged while in the House of Representatives to serve on the Veterans’ Committee and help our veterans who gave us so much and asked for so little in return. In the Senate, I had the chance to be part of the Armed Services Committee and make sure our service members had everything they needed to complete their mission.
American service members have given their lives to uphold our Constitution and to defend the safety and freedoms of our citizens. Our Nation can never fully repay the debt we owe to our fallen heroes and their families. To veterans and military families gathered here today – please know that a grateful nation thanks you.
During World War II, over sixteen million men and women answered our country’s call to duty to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Italian partisans also gave their lives in the fight against tyranny. Allied soldiers’ and partisans’ stories teach us important lessons about extraordinary human strength.
These young men and women who rest here today at this sacred place averaged only 20 years old. They came to a country and place they had never been and could not find on a map – to fight for America and the freedom of the people of Italy and the world.
They came here from our farms and cities, from poor towns and rich places, from all religions and backgrounds, and moved north from the liberation of Rome in June,1944 to the Apennines and the victorious end of the war in Italy on May 2. 1945. They had to fight every inch of the way and see the loss of their brothers and sisters in combat day after day, and they never wavered.
These young men and women stopped Hitler – stopped genocide – defeated fascism – and saved Italy, America, and the world. They lived in the mud and the rain and the snow and the blood of combat with each other, laughed with each other, and dreamed of home and family.
Three Medal of Honor winners sleep here, and all forty – four hundred who are buried here and the 1409 who are missing and recognized on the wall behind us at this sacred place are heroes. They gave their lives so that we could be together in freedom here today.
Today we honor and reflect upon the courage, integrity, and selfless dedication of the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our Nation. Through today’s ceremony, we also reaffirm the value of shared democratic principles and institutions. We must continue to recount the stories of these individuals’ sacrifices to future generations, so that our children may become the diligent guardians of the democratic ideals upon which the United States – and Italy and San Marino – were founded.
God bless San Marino, God bless Italy, and may God bless the United States of America – friends and brothers and sisters forever.