Remarks to the Families of the United States Marines Slain in El Salvador

June 22, 1985

Ladies and gentlemen, we are here today to receive, in the name of our country, the remains of four United States marines killed in the line of duty in a country far away. They were victims of vicious evil. And we grieve for their loss and for the other innocent victims of that vicious attack.

When a nation is a family, and ours is, no death is impersonal, no death is discreet, no death is in and of itself. Each death is a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole. But when a serviceman dies, we feel a special anguish. A serviceman's life is a hard life, a life of sacrifice and risk. And we're never good enough to them. We're never as good as we should be, because that's not possible. No one can treat such men and women as they deserve, because what they give us is beyond our powers to repay.

And so, when they're taken from us, when they're taken because they wore our uniform with love and pride, when they're killed because they put themselves in harm's way for our sake, then we feel an anguish that cuts at the heart and cannot forget.

Gregory Weber was 22 years old, and he went to guard the American Embassy because, as he told his father, ``Dad, they need a few good men down there.''

Thomas Handwork was 24 and a 5-year veteran of the corps. It wasn't a job to him; it was a calling. He'd wanted to be a marine from the first days he could walk and talk. He dreamt about the corps. It was all he wanted.

Bobby Dickson was 27 years old and a southerner, raised in a tradition of manly honor. He feared nothing.

And Patrick Kwiatkowski was the youngest of the four, only 20 years old. His 21st birthday was yesterday. A volunteer from Wausau, Wisconsin.

They were all volunteers. They were four young men who chose to follow an honored and ancestral path. And so they swung the bag over their shoulders, kissed their parents goodby, and went off to serve their country. They chose to follow the life of service and selflessness and courage. They did it for love and honor -- Semper Fi.

To those who love them and who will take them to their rest, we know that no words can console. But we thank you for your sons and daughters and your brothers. We thank you for these fine young men. No words can console, but we know of the promise in the Bible, ``Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.''

As we mourn these children of God, we remember another promise, ``Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.''

They say the men who murdered these sons of America escaped and disappeared into the city streets. But I pledge to you today, they will not evade justice on Earth any more than they can escape the judgment of God. We and the Salvadoran leaders will move any mountain and ford any river to find the jackals and bring them and their colleagues in terror to justice.

And now, today, we grieve for four young men taken from us too soon. And we receive them in death as they were on the last night of their lives, together and following a radiant light -- following it toward heaven, toward home. And if we reach -- or when we reach heaven's scenes, we truly will find it guarded by United States marines.

Note: The President spoke at 4:11 p.m. at Andrews Air Force Base, MD.