Repatriation of Remains Ceremony
Between the United States and the Republic of Korea
Hangar 19, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI
Jun 23, 2020
Thank you for the kind introduction, Rear Admiral Banaji, and thank you to the DPAA.
Good morning and Aloha, ladies and gentlemen. It is an incredible honor to represent the Department of Defense and the American people – and to participate in today’s ceremony alongside Vice Minister of Defense PARK Jae Min.
Your Excellency, thank you for making the trip. Your presence today is a tribute to the thousands of South Koreans and Americans who lost their lives during the Korean War, defending the independence of the newly formed Republic of Korea.
I would also like to welcome
Consul General KIM, and
Brigadier General SHIN.
Certainly, we are here today because of the unprecedented coordination and close friendship between our two nations.
It is also nice to have Major General Gillette in attendance, representing the United Nations Command.
I would like to thank DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) for hosting today’s ceremony and for all that you do for the fallen and their families.
DPAA’s noble mission and sacred endeavor of “Fulfilling our Nation’s Promise” in accounting for our missing heroes continues with remarkable success.
I wholeheartedly extend the same praise to the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of National Defense Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification (MAKRI), who maintains a strong and long-standing partnership with the DPAA.
MAKRI’s dedication to the recovery and identification mission has forged a lasting bond between these two indispensable organizations.
I know I am joined by everyone here today in expressing my sincerest appreciation to both the DPAA and MAKRI, as well as our veteran services organizations and family advocates for those still missing from past conflicts.
Our missing and unaccounted for service members are entitled to one certainty – that they will never be forgotten. We owe these honored dead and their families a profound debt of gratitude.
May there be many more repatriations ceremonies for both our nations that bring a sense of relief to families and allow our grateful nations to render proper honors to our fallen heroes.
We shall never forget them.
Tomorrow, in Seoul, President Moon will welcome these remains home in an official ceremony coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the onset of the Korean War.
A conflict in which South Koreans and Americans fought bravely side by side to defend the values embodied in the established rules-based international order, which was then in its very infancy.
This was an order born from the belief that free people and democratic societies can join together in observance of a common set of values, rules, and norms to bring peace and prosperity to the globe.
Since that time, the rules-based international order has helped to liberate hundreds of millions and lift billions out of poverty, all to a level of prosperity previously unseen in human history.
We pay tribute to our Korean War veterans and their families, along with the families of service members missing in action and the fallen – who marched into battle to protect and defend the region.
We honor them today as the embodiment of the ideals of our nations and those of our allies, who fought as brothers in arms to deter aggression, defend sovereignty, and protect individual human rights.
The Alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States is a special bond built on mutual trust, shared values, and an enduring friendship.
For more than six decades, our iron clad Alliance has been the linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific – certainly one of the most successful of its kind in modern history.
The significance of our friendship and our alliance was deeply ingrained in my core during the earliest years of my naval career – then as a junior officer serving onboard a U.S. Navy frigate based here at Pearl Harbor.
While on patrol in the waters just east of Korea, our crew was notified of the Korean Airlines Flight 007 tragedy – when a Soviet fighter jet shot down the Boeing 747 civilian airliner, claiming the lives of the 269 souls on board – Koreans, Americans, and many others.
Our ship was one of the first ships to arrive on scene, where we would remain for the following months conducting search and rescue and salvage operations.
Indeed, this tragic event stands as a stark and painful reminder of our shared sacrifice against communist aggression in the past – but it also points to the importance of protecting the freedom and openness of our seas and airways.
Our vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific is centered on the idea that free societies respect individual rights and liberties, the promotion of good governance, and adherence to the shared values of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific affirms that all nations should enjoy unfettered, open access to the seas and airways upon which our people and economies depend.
Today and everyday, let us not forget – these fallen warriors who paved the way for our strong network of alliances that continues to help secure the Indo-Pacific today.
Republic of Korea and United States service members on the Korean Peninsula and across the region continue to carry on the mission to which these individuals dedicated their last breaths.
Together, our two nations will continue to honor their legacy through our unwavering strength, resolve, and dedication to preserving peace on the peninsula and throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
May God bless the Republic of Korea, the United States of America, and our enduring alliance and cherished friendship.
And may God bless these fallen soldiers as they return home – and all of those who sacrificed themselves on the Korean Peninsula – from all nations and walks of life, in the pursuit of freedom and liberty. Thank you.