When I first stood on this island in February 1945, our two nations were at war with each other and the environment was characterized by devastation, destruction and death and three colors to be seen—black, gray, and red. All greenery had been blown away by the various weapons of war. The red color came from the blood of American and Japanese military men who had been wounded or killed in the vicious fighting.
Today as I stand here in March, 2015, the island is green, the atmosphere of hatred has changed to friendship, war has been displaced by understanding and friendship and our two Nations are bound together in a bi-lateral relationship that is the strongest in the world today. Madam Kuribayashi was precisely right when she proclaimed in 1995 that we enemies had become friend. Her words have set the tone for each of our reunions since that time.
Time is said to be the great healer and time has allowed physical wounds to heal but healing has left deep scars for many of the survivors and left deep emotional scars on the families of those who died here. Some scars are physical, some are mental but all are reminders that the vicious warfare that took place on this island claimed the lives of thousands on both sides and it is those men we honor today and will honor forever.
On both sides we lost young men who had the potential to do so much for their countries in a peaceful world. Their families back home suffered grief that is an inevitable part of warfare. Our prayers are that the souls of those who died here and resting in peace and their families are remembering the good times they shared.
As we stand together to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our Joint Reunion of Honor we also stand together in opposition to international terrorism which threatens our citizens round the world and seeks to do major damage in our homelands. The solution to the international terrorism problem will not be solved by military action alone but require our joint economic and international political programs to insure the security of our two Nations.
Our Annual Joint Reunion of Honor Program here on island has been a consistent success over twenty years because of many on both sides who wanted to be sure that we would continue to honor those who gave their lives here. I wish to thank Ambassador Sasae and his Embassy Staff for their encouragement and support, the Self Defense Force or their participation, the Foreign Ministry for so much cooperation, and senior officials of the Japanese Government along with the Diet Members who have attended this event. All of this support demonstrates the depth of our friendship and I thank you.
It is my hope that these Joint Reunions of Honor will continue long into the future, not just because we want to continue to honor those who died here but because these reunions have become a visible sign to the rest of world that we are friends in every sense of the word and that we stand united against those who would jeopardize our freedom and our relationships.