Ambassador Berry’s Remarks at Australian-American Memorial Plaque Unveiling Ceremony

Secretary Richardson, Vice Admiral Griggs, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen;

It is an honor to be here with you today to celebrate the restoration of this wonderful memorial. With its new facelift, it’s looking very good for sixty years old.

I am grateful to the Australian-American Association – and to the Australian people – for commissioning and building a lasting monument in honor of the American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who fought with Australians in defense of these shores.

We thank you for ensuring that our men and women in uniform will never be forgotten.

This memorial serves as a reminder of the power, the courage, and the bravery exhibited by our service members –both past and present.

It also reminds us of that fateful turning point in May 1942 at the Battle of the Coral Sea. Together, we held the line in a feat of heroism and courage that changed the course of World War II.

During that engagement, more than 540 Allied servicemen were lost. We also lost three U.S. ships – including the fabled “Lady Lex” – and the Yorktown was seriously damaged. And yet this was a victory in the strategic sense, for this battle marked the first time that a major Japanese advance had been halted.

In the words of President Obama, “during those fateful days on the Pacific, our countries fortified an unshakeable alliance” – an alliance based on shared histories and common values, and formalized by the ANZUS Treaty.

The memory of those who endured hardship and sacrifice on the field of battle will never fade, but there are some who still remember first-hand.

Though he was unable to join us today, one of these heroes is right here in Canberra: Mr. Gordon Johnson, who joined the Royal Australian Navy at the age 16 and a half to defend his country. He was 19 and serving as a telegrapher aboard the light cruiser HMAS Hobart during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

My father and my uncle both fought in the Pacific. My uncle – my namesake – never returned home again. So this memorial holds a very personal meaning for me.

I strongly believe that that every new generation must recommit to the cause of freedom for which our loved ones died, and to the promise of peace of which they dreamed.

True democracy, real prosperity, and lasting security are not given to us as gifts. They must be earned. And they must be carefully nurtured over time.

In times of war and peace, we have turned to each other. We have worked and fought side by side. Our alliance has been the cornerstone of peace and security in the Pacific for the past seventy years.

We are not allies because of geography.

We are not allies because it is convenient.

We are not allies out of obligation.

We are allies because we share the common foundational values of liberty, justice, democracy, and respect for human dignity and freedom.

We are allies because we do not walk away from our friends. In our darkest days, we have always stood together – and we always will. When your homeland came under attack in World War II, we were there. Just as you were there for us in the aftermath of September 11.

We remember. You will not find a truer friend, a stronger ally, or a more dedicated partner than the United States.

And we could not ask for a better friend or ally than Australia.

May God continue to bless our two great nations.

Thank you.