Remarks by Chargé d’affaires, a.i. Michael Klecheski
at the 75th commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor)
Mount Samat National Shrine in Bataan, April 9, 2017
Thank you Mr. President, Ambassador Ishikawa, veterans and other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to be on this podium today.
On a day as beautiful as this, it might be easy to forget the full force of the events that this stirring monument commemorates. We may be charmed by the beauty of the ocean in the distance and the rich vegetation around us, making it hard to remember what suffering took place at Corregidor and then on that infamous death march. On the road here, towns are fast developing, and in the distance, we can see the gleaming new buildings along the shore of Manila, all of which might focus our minds not on the wartime destruction but on the tremendous progress this country has made in the ensuing years.
Yet we are here to remember, and remember we must. We must remember those who gave their lives, and those who served – and continue to serve – their countries. For that reason, we are honored to have so many veterans here – some of whom can remind us from first-hand experience of what happened here those 75 years ago. We are proud to honor them, and those now serving in our militaries, including, on occasion, working with one another in what has long been a strong and mutually beneficial military-to-military relationship.
We must remember the horrors of war, and of the importance of striving for peace. In the decades since the war, we have together – the Philippines, the U.S., Japan and so many others – forged a rules-based order in Asia that has created a stability that we cherish and that we must continue – together – to defend. Today the new challenge of international terrorism has emerged, and our countries also are united in fighting that scourge.
We must remember the importance of standing together, as the Philippines and the U.S. have done for these many decades. Brave Filipino and American men and women fought with honor and courage during those desperate few weeks of 1942, and in so doing forged bonds so strong, deep and lasting that we continue draw on them today. Ours is a powerful alliance that has stood the test of time, but has been enhanced by another legacy of that era, with the enemies of that time having become partners as well.
And finally, we must remember the courage, the grit – the valor – of those Filipinos and Americans who fought at Corregidor and slogged through the ground below us in the death march that followed.
We must remember all this – but we must also learn from it and teach future generations. So even as this is a day of memory, may it also be a day of recommitment, both to continue standing together as countries and to valor as people.