"Members of the diplomatic corps, Members of the Armed Services, I'm pleased to join our distinguished Speaker and all of our colleagues in welcoming you to this wonderful ceremony in this magnificent Capitol.
"During World War II, legendary correspondent Ernie Pyle chronicled the story of the average American soldier. And he wrote, In the end, they are the ones that wars can't be won without. It was true then, and it is true today. For despite all the advances of science and technology, it still comes down to the personal commitment of our men and women in uniform.
"We are gathered in this august hall to pay tribute to our servicemen and women and their families - Americans from all walks of life serving their country with extraordinary bravery and valor.
"It is with the deepest gratitude and respect that we honor their courage, their patriotism, and their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. Today, as always, they are the ones that wars - and peace - cant be won without.
"For the past three weeks, the American people have been gripped by unprecedented broadcasts from the frontlines. We have watched in real time as our forces in Iraq have confronted the hardships, horrors and uncertainty of war.
"We have been inspired by their courage under fire, their heroic acts, including the sensational rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, and their compassion toward their wounded comrades. And over the past 24 hours, we have watched as the Iraqi people, who have suffered so much for so long, take their first breaths of freedom.
"Before the war began, many of us met our courageous men and women in uniform, both here in the United States and in the Persian Gulf. And since the war, many of us have visited them at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Hospital. Anyone who meets with them is completely inspired, and it makes anything that we do or say for freedom seem so small compared to their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice.
"Today, our thoughts and prayers, as they have been since the day the conflict began, are with these brave servicemen and women and their families, as well as with those who are still in harms way. We pray for the wounded and the families who have lost a loved one.
"We pray for the safe return of the missing, our prisoners of war, and all of our forces into the loving arms of their families.
"And we in Congress, indeed all Americans, resolve to let their service renew our mission - to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.
"On behalf of a grateful nation, we say to these American patriots - thank you. Thank you for who you are - your character and your courage. Thank you for what you have done - your service and your sacrifice.
"God bless our courageous men and women in uniform. God bless their brave
families back home. And God bless the United States of America."
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