26 May 2024

Good morning, Allies, guests, and fellow Marines. It’s an honor to be here. And I am especially honored to stand with my counterparts, Chief of Staff of the French Army, General Pierre Schill, and Commander of the Franco-German Brigade, General Christian Friedl, to commemorate the Battle of Belleau Wood – a defining moment in our shared history. 

Thanks to you and your men and women in uniform for standing with us today.

I extend my deepest gratitude to Prefet Campeaux, Mayor Leboulanger, the police and citizens of Belleau Wood, and Mr. Shane Williams and the great team at the American Battle Monuments Commission. Your commitment keeps the legacy of this battle alive.

It is difficult to imagine that over a century ago, these quiet woods were the stage of intense and brutal combat. This small, unassuming forest was where valor met ferocity in a clash that would alter the course of the First World War. The American Marines who fought here in 1918 were bolstered by the spirit and strength of their French counterparts. Together, they faced a formidable and determined opponent. And many of those Marines were green. Fresh to the theater, and untested in combat.

But they drew inspiration from the tenacity of French soldiers who had been defending their homeland since the war's outbreak. The fierce resolve of the French forces at battles like Verdun and the Marne set a profound example of courage and endurance that the Marines emulated here at Belleau Wood.

This battle not only tested the mettle of our forces but also reaffirmed our deep relationship with France – our oldest diplomatic ally and current NATO partner. It is a partnership founded in our war for independence and reinforced in the trenches and the fields of World War I. France's place in our history is unparalleled, and the bonds formed in those early days of friendship continue to thrive today.

Today, we also stand with our NATO partner Germany. The transformation from adversaries to one of our closest allies is a testament to the power of reconciliation and mutual respect. The legacy of conflicts like Belleau Wood reminds us of the tragedies of war but also highlights the incredible potential for peace and partnership.

As we honor the sacrifices made in these woods, we not only remember the fallen, but also celebrate the enduring spirit of alliance that grew from the ashes of conflict. The lessons of Belleau Wood, with its harrowing battles and hard-won camaraderie, resonate deeply as we face the modern geopolitical landscape.

These historic woods are not just a memorial to past bravery but a reminder of the importance of our ongoing commitment to each other. They teach us that together as partners and allies, facing even the most daunting challenges, we can achieve a peace and security that none could alone. Today, the best way to honor the legacy of those who fought here is by continuing to strengthen the bonds between our nations.  Bonds that build our resiliency in the face of threats to our collective security. Together, we uphold the values of liberty and mutual respect that are as vital today as they were over a century ago.

To our partners and allies and fellow Americans here today, I say thank you. We cherish your friendship and honor the legacy of the Marines and soldiers who fought here 106 years ago.

Vive la France.  God Bless America and Semper Fidelis.