This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. On this Memorial Day, we remember those thousands of servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned home.
On this day, we remember that freedom is not free.
At the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., stands a Freedom Wall adorned with 4,000 gold stars to commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives in the war. Many Kansans are represented by those stars — including one brave Marine who went above and beyond the call of duty in service to his country.
As a tank commander, Sgt. Grant Timmerman was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division in the Pacific Theater. On June 8, 1944, Timmerman was engaged in a fierce firefight with the enemy when his tank's progress was halted by a series of Japanese pillboxes and trenches.
Immediately, Timmerman began preparations to fire the 75 mm gun mounted on the tank. But mindful of the danger from the muzzle blast to his comrades, he fearlessly stood up in the exposed turret and ordered the infantry to hit the deck. As a grenade hurled by the Japanese was about to drop into the open turret hatch, Timmerman threw himself on top of the grenade, taking the blunt of the explosion and saving the lives of his crew. For his selfless action and heroism, his country bestowed upon this brave man its highest honor, the Medal of Honor.
Earlier this year, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and I introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to award the Medal of Honor to another Kansas war hero, Father Emil Kapaun, for his acts of valor in the Korean War. His courageous actions on the battlefields saved countless lives, as he ran under enemy fire to rescue wounded soldiers. When Kapaun was taken as a prisoner in 1950, he continued to live out the Army chaplain motto: "For God and country." When all else looked hopeless, the father rallied his comrades to persevere, until his own death as a prisoner in 1951.
Today, our nation's young men and women are still risking their lives for the sake of others. In Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe, they are fighting for those principles we hold most dear — freedom and justice.
We thank God for giving us these heroes, and we stand committed to preserving this nation for the sake of the next generation. We are indebted to our veterans to do nothing less.