Dedication of the Florida World War II Monument
Tallahassee, Florida
June 6, 2005
Governor Jeb Bush

Today, on the 61st anniversary of D-Day, we dedicate Florida's World War II monument.

I am reminded of General Dwight D. Eisenhower's address to his troops before that historic battle on June 6, 1944:

"The eyes of the world are upon you," he said. "The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory."

During the past few years, the eyes of a thankful nation have again focused on the brave men and women who defend freedom and defeat tyranny.

Today, a new generation of Floridians looks to you to learn from your example of courage, sacrifice, and devotion.

With the dedication of this monument, Florida completes our memorial to WWII veterans, their families, and those who supported them from Florida's homefront.

And we at long last pay tribute to your service.

A lot has changed since 1944. Back then you could buy a bottle of soda for a nickel.

Swinging on a Star was the hit song. Going My Way with Bing Crosby won best picture.

And Harvard scientists were building this funny machine later known as a computer.

Many of you probably don't share those memories. Your experiences, and your memories, are quite different.

Your memories of that time are of far-off places, and of great suffering and hardship. They represent the experiences shared by so many who served and defended our freedom.

More than 248,000 Floridians served our country in WWII. More than 4,600 gave their lives in that service.

Here are a few of your stories…here are your memories of that time:

Lieutenant General Larry Snowden saw combat as a Company Commander with the 23rd Marines.

He helped capture Roi-Namur [Roy-Nah-moor] in the Marshall Islands, Saipan and Tinian, [Tin-ee-an] and participated in the assault on Iwo Jima.

Owen Council served as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles.

He was the 7th American to parachute into France on D-Day, plunging to the earth to set landing markers for other paratroopers and to cut off German reinforcements.

Mr. Council was wounded twice and was captured. He spent nine months as a prisoner of war.

Bill Coleman was also a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne division and jumped into France on D-Day.

Mr. Coleman was wounded early in the battle, was captured, and endured the entire war as a prisoner of war.

Clayton Taff entered the U.S. Navy on his 17th birthday.

Mr. Taff served in the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands, and Okinawa for 10 months as a Seabee, building docks and roads.

Ed Mims flew B-24's with the Army Air Corps 466th Bomb Group. He completed 25 dangerous missions over Europe.

Judge Robert (Bob) Decatur flew with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen's story provides a superb lesson in triumph over adversity.

Black pilots were sent to segregated Tuskegee and told they lacked the mental and physical capacity to fly. Because of this, Judge Decatur said, "We knew we could not fail."

And they didn't. In fact, the Tuskegee Airmen had one of the finest records in American aviation history.

They flew 1,500 missions across the skies of Europe and distinguished themselves for outstanding tactical air support and aerial combat.

The Tuskegee Airmen fought segregation and discrimination here in America and then fiercely fought America's enemies. In doing so they were at the forefront in the fight for human dignity.

These are the stories of the brave Floridian veterans of WWII. We tell these stories while we can - for we know the flame of the glorious fellowship of WWII buddies has begun to flicker.

I'd also like to acknowledge a Medal of Honor recipient who honors us by being here today. Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell, President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society -- Thank you for your service, and thank you for joining us.

You all have taught us courage, humility, sacrifice, perseverance, duty, and brotherhood. Uncommon valor is indeed a common virtue among you.

You make Florida proud.

Most of you are too humble to talk about your experience. When you do talk, you say that you were just trying to do your job, win the war, and get home…and that you knew what you were fighting for, and who you were fighting against.

America was unified, and you knew you had America's support and gratitude.

Today, the hopes of the world still rest with the United States to protect liberty and defend the innocent from gutless killers who seek to destroy lives and undermine a way of life that is a beacon for millions around the globe.

Your courageous spirit, your support and gratitude for today's soldiers, and your deep love of your country say more to our generation than any words can.

As our future generations hear your stories, follow the example you set, and adopt your humility and grace, the flame of freedom you preserved will continue to shine upon all the world.