Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1996

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Author: William J. Clinton  | Date: April 6, 1996

Remarks Honoring Those Who Died in the Aircraft Tragedy in Croatia at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware,
April 6, 1996

My fellow Americans, today we come to a place that has seen too many sad, silent homecomings. For this is where we in America bring home our own, those who have given their lives in the service of their country.

The 33 fine Americans we meet today, on their last journey home, ended their lives on a hard mountain a long way from home. But in a way they never left America. On their mission of peace and hope, they carried with them America’s spirit, what our greatest martyr, Abraham Lincoln, called "the last, best hope of Earth."

Our loved ones and friends loved their country, and they loved serving their country. They believed that America, through their efforts, could help to restore a broken land, help to heal a people of their hatreds, help to bring a better tomorrow through honest work and shared enterprise. They knew what their country had given them, and they gave it back with a force, an energy, an optimism that every one of us can be proud of.

They were outstanding business leaders who gave their employees and their customers their very best. They were brave members of our military, dedicated to preserving our freedom and advancing America’s cause.

There was a brilliant correspondent, committed to helping Americans better understand this complicated new world we live in. And there were public servants, some of them still in the fresh springtime of their years, who gave nothing less than everythingthey had, because they believed in the nobility of public service.

And there was a noble Secretary of Commerce who never saw a mountain he couldn’t climb or a river he couldn’t build a bridge across.

All of them were so full of possibility. Even as we grieve for what their lives might have been, let us celebrate what their lives were, for their public achievements and their private victories of love and kindness and devotion are things that no one—no one—could do anything but treasure.

These 33 lives show us the best of America. They are a stern rebuke to the cynicism that is all too familiar today. For as family after family after family told the Vice President and Hillary and me today, their loved ones were proud of what they were doing; they believed in what they were doing; they believed in this country; they believed we could make a difference. How silly they make cynicism seem. And more important, they were a glowing testimonial to the power of individuals to improve their own lives and elevate the lives of others and make a better future for others. These 33 people loved America enough to use what is best about it in their own lives, to try to help solve a problem a long, long way from home.

At the first of this interminable week, Ron Brown came to the White House to visit with me and the Vice President and a few others. And at the end of the visit he was bubbling with enthusiasm about this mission. And he went through all the people from the Commerce Department who were going. And then he went through every single business leader that was going. And he said, "You know, I’ve taken so many of these missions to advance America’s economic interest and to generate jobs for Americans; these business people are going on this mission because they want to use the power of the American economy to save the peace in the Balkans."

That is a noble thing. Nearly 5,000 miles from home, they went to help people build their own homes and roads, to turn on the lights in cities darkened by war, to restore the everyday interchange of people working and living together with something to look forward to and a dream to raise their own children by. You know, we can say a lot of things, because these people were many things to those who loved them. But I say to all of you, to every American, they were all patriots; whether soldiers or civil servants or committed citizens, they were patriots.

In their memory and in their honor, let us rededicate our lives to our country and to our fellow citizens. In their memory and in their honor, let us resolve to continue their mission of peace and healing and progress. We must not let their mission fail. And we will not let their mission fail.

The sun is going down on this day. The next time it rises it will be Easter morning, a day that marks the passage from loss and despair to hope and redemption, a day that more than any other reminds us that life is more than what we know, life is more than what we can understand, life is more than, sometimes, even we can bear. But life is also eternal. For each of these 33 of our fellow Americans and the two fine Croatians that fell with them, their day on Earth was too short, but for our country men and women we must remember that what they did while the sun was out will last with us forever.

If I may now, I would like to read the names of all of them, in honor of their lives, their service, and their families:

Staff Sergeant Gerald Aldrich

Ronald Brown

Duane Christian

Barry Conrad

Paul Cushman III

Adam Darling

Captain Ashley James Davis

Gail Dobert

Robert Donovan

Claudio Elia

Staff Sergeant Robert Farrington, Jr.

David Ford

Carol Hamilton

Kathryn Hoffman

Lee Jackson

Stephen Kaminski

Katherine Kellogg

Technical Sergeant Shelly Kelly

James Lewek

Frank Maier

Charles Meissner

William Morton

Walter Murphy

Lawrence PayneNathaniel Nash

Leonard Pieroni

Captain Timothy Schafer

John Scoville

I. Donald Terner

P. Stuart Tholan

Technical Sergeant Cheryl Ann Turnage

Naomi Warbasse

Robert Al Whittaker

Today we bring their bodies back home to America, but their souls are surely at home with God. We welcome them home. We miss them. We ask God to be with them and their families.

God bless you all, and God bless our beloved Nation. Amen.

Note: The President spoke at 6:20 p.m. in Hangar 706 at Dover Air Force Base.

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Chicago: William J. Clinton, "Remarks Honoring Those Who Died in the Aircraft Tragedy in Croatia at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 6, 1996," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1996 in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, April 12, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996), 32:2543 629–630. Original Sources, accessed April 21, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CRJ7DBYZ7LZEHXI.

MLA: Clinton, William J. "Remarks Honoring Those Who Died in the Aircraft Tragedy in Croatia at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 6, 1996." Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1996, in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, April 12, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996), 32:2543, pp. 629–630. Original Sources. 21 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CRJ7DBYZ7LZEHXI.

Harvard: Clinton, WJ, 'Remarks Honoring Those Who Died in the Aircraft Tragedy in Croatia at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 6, 1996' in Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1996. cited in , United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, April 12, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996), 32:2543, pp.629–630. Original Sources, retrieved 21 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CRJ7DBYZ7LZEHXI.