[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[May 29, 1995]
[Pages 758-760]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the POW/MIA Postage Stamp Unveiling Ceremony
May 29, 1995

    Thank you very much, Secretary Brown, for your remarks and for your 
service. Postmaster General Runyon, Senator Simpson, Congressman Bishop, 
Secretary and Mrs. West, General and Mrs. Shalikashvili, to the 
distinguished service chiefs who are here, members of the Armed Forces, 
and especially to our veterans on this Memorial Day: We are proud to 
have you all

[[Page 759]]

here at the White House and honored to have the opportunity to unveil 
this stamp, which honors the extraordinary sacrifice of American 
prisoners of war and the memory of all those who never came home. It 
will help to ensure that all these Americans who gave so much to our 
freedom are never forgotten.
    We are especially fortunate to have a number of former prisoners of 
war joining us here today. They represent a half-century of commitment 
to the principles that our Nation has stood for throughout the world. 
They embody a level of devotion and service almost unimaginable. And I 
am proud to recognize several of them who are here today.
    Lieutenant Colonel Charles Prigmore was a young bombardier during 
World War II. On his 14th mission over Germany, his plane was shot down, 
and he spent a year as a POW. Today, he is the national commander of the 
American Ex-Prisoners of War. Colonel Prigmore, would you be recognized, 
please? [Applause] Thank you.
    Infantryman Bill Rolen fought at Anzio Beach and helped to liberate 
Rome. During the invasion of southern France he was captured and forced 
to spend the rest of the war in a slave labor camp. Mr. Rolen, welcome. 
[Applause] Thank you.
    When the Philippines were attacked in 1941, Ruby Bradley had already 
been an Army nurse for 7 years. She was captured just days after 
Christmas, and her internment lasted until 1945. Ms. Bradley. [Applause] 
Thank you.
    Robert Fletcher was serving in Korea in 1950 when he was captured. 
He spent nearly 3 years as a prisoner of the North Korean and Chinese 
forces before he finally could return home. Mr. Fletcher. [Applause] 
Thank you.
    Captain Isaac Camacho, a green beret, was captured outside Saigon 
when his camp was overrun in 1963. He endured the jungle prisons of the 
Viet Cong for nearly 2 years and was one of the very few to escape and 
to survive. It is especially appropriate to have him here today because 
he is still a servant of our country; he is the U.S. Postal Service 
station master in El Paso, Texas. Captain Camacho. [Applause] Thank you, 
    And finally, Lieutenant Colonel Rhonda Cornum is a flight surgeon 
who served in Operation Desert Storm. On a rescue mission in Iraq, her 
helicopter was shot down. She was badly injured, with broken arms and a 
gunshot wound, captured by Iraqi forces, and held until the end of the 
fighting. Colonel Cornum. [Applause] Thank you.
    Ladies and gentlemen, these and the others who have suffered similar 
fates are American heroes, among the finest and bravest individuals our 
Nation has ever produced. They had to bear hardships, but never 
faltered. They inspire us still, and will for generations to come. I am 
pleased now that millions of Americans will be reminded every day of the 
extraordinary service they rendered, and all others like them rendered, 
by this new stamp.
    On this Memorial Day, as every year, we also remember those who 
answered the call but never came home. Their loss is the greatest cost 
our Nation has paid for freedom. We can only imagine the pain their 
families have experienced, the grief that comes with uncertainty, the 
grief that comes with being denied a proper and clear grave. We know 
very well our obligation to them and their families to leave no stone 
unturned as we try to account for their fate and, if possible, to bring 
them home.
    We have worked hard and made good progress. We have put the issue of 
MIA cases ahead of all others in our dealings with Vietnam. And today I 
am proud to say that we are receiving more cooperation from Hanoi than 
ever before.
    A Presidential delegation headed by the Veterans Department Deputy 
Secretary, Hershel Gober, has just returned from Vietnam and Laos, and 
we believe that cooperation with both these nations will continue. Our 
joint investigations are moving forward, and the Vietnamese are turning 
over essential documents. More than 200 sets of remains have been 
returned since I became President. Of the nearly 200 so-called 
discrepancy cases, we have confirmed the fate of all but 55. And we will 
not stop until we have taken every possible step for every MIA and every 
MIA family.
    I want to say a special word of appreciation to all those who have 
participated in this remarkable effort. There is nothing like it in all 
the history of warfare. Never has so much been done to get this kind of 
accounting. I thank the families involved, the veterans groups involved, 
those who have served in the active duty military as a part of this, and 
others who have played critical roles.
    I also thank the Americans who have worked to help the Vietnamese to 
identify their MIA's

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as well. That, too, is an astonishing development in the history of 
warfare. And the American people are indebted to all of you who have 
played a role in this remarkable endeavor.
    Thanks to our new relationship with Russia, we're also making 
progress on the MIA cases from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, 
and a number of cold war incidents. The U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on 
POW-MIA's has gained access to thousands of pages of once-classified 
documents, conducted hundreds of interviews in Russia and in the other 
New Independent States, received important information about the fate of 
American service personnel.
    Those missing from the war in Korea, along with the MIA's from all 
our Nation's conflicts, will not be forgotten in the heart of America. 
Our work will go forward until we have done all there is to do. We owe 
it to them, to their families, and to our country to work on this until 
the job is done.
    And we must remain true to our entire commitment to stand by all 
those who stood watch for freedom. Whether it is protecting benefits 
that veterans have earned or improving health care or breaking the cycle 
of despair for homeless veterans or confronting the legacy of Agent 
Orange or getting to the bottom of Gulf war-related illnesses, we must 
uphold our solemn obligation to our veterans, not for a few months or 
for a few years but for the entire lifetime of this Nation.
    And we owe it to the legacy of our veterans to protect the national 
security in the future. We are working hard to end the legacy of the 
cold war. The United States and Russia are destroying nuclear arsenals. 
And I am proud that for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear 
age, there are no nuclear weapons pointed at the children of the United 
States of America. I am proud that the United States and Russia joined 
together to secure the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation 
Treaty, so that more and more nations will be making and keeping a 
promise not to develop nuclear weapons.
    But we know that we have challenges from other weapons as well, from 
biological and chemical weapons. We must work to contain them. And we 
know that we have the challenge not only of nations that still seek to 
do us and other freedom-loving peoples harm but also from terrorists 
around the world and here at home who would threaten our security and 
our way of life.
    We must stand up to all these security threats as a way of honoring 
those who have sacrificed and served our country. They brought us to 
this point, and we owe it to them to give our children the opportunities 
we have all enjoyed.
    So on this Memorial Day, I say to all of you, we honor the 
sacrifices of those who never came home, the sacrifices of those who 
were imprisoned but came home, the sacrifices of all who gave and all 
who serve. God bless you all, and God bless America.
    And now, for the proper unveiling of this much-deserved stamp, let 
me introduce our very fine Postmaster General, Mr. Marvin Runyon, and 
thank him again for the outstanding job he has done.
    Mr. Runyon.

Note: The President spoke at 9:15 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White