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Cotton Speaks on the Senate Floor about Alexandria Shooting and PFC Larry Roberts

June 14, 2017

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353

Mr. President, I want to add to the voice of so many Senators today who have expressed their prayers and concerns for the five Americans who were wounded today in the terrible shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.
 
Steve Scalise, a friend of mine from the House of Representatives, someone who took a bet on me early in my first campaign as a neighboring state and aspiring young candidate, with whom I served with for two years.
 
Matt Mika, who represents Tyson, a great Arkansas institution and whom I've known from the beginning days of my days in politics-as well as Zack Barth, a young House staffer, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, two brave Capitol police officers who were on the scene.
 
We don't yet know all of the details of what happened this morning. But here's what we do know: that if it wasn't for the bravery of those Capitol police officers, not just Crystal and David, but the others present then there might have been many more killed. We all sit here safely engaged in the great debates of American democracy, whether we're a senator or whether we're Americans watching it, because there are brave men and women literally standing guard at our doors, with guns, willing to put their lives on the line to defend all of us.
 
And I want to join so many other senators today to express my gratitude to the Capitol police-not just for protecting us, 535 elected members of Congress, but also protecting all of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who come here every single day of the year to see their Congress and their representatives doing the people's business.
 
Now Mr. President, speaking of men who guard us with guns, I want to turn our attention now to Arlington National Cemetery. After 74 years, an American patriot has finally come home.
 
Private First Class Larry Roberts-of Damascus, Arkansas-was only 18 years old at the time of his final mission. It was November 1943-the height of World War Two. Private Roberts had been assigned to the Special Weapons Group, 2nd Defense Battalion, Fleet Marine Force. U.S. forces were making their way across the Pacific, island by island by island. And that month, those Marines landed on tiny Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.
 
The mission? Take the island, and advance on to Tokyo and to victory. Private Roberts and his battle buddies performed brilliantly, but the fighting was fierce: 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed; 2,000 wounded. The Japanese fought to the last man standing. In the end, we won, but it was a steep cost. Private Roberts, like so many others, was killed on November 25, 1943.
 
In the two years after the war, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company tried to recover all the remains on the battlefield, but they never found any sign of Roberts. In 1949, a military review board declared his remains non-recoverable.
 
But just two years ago, the non-profit History Flight discovered an until-then unknown burial site on the island and recovered remains of 35 Marines who had died there. It took two years, but thanks to the amazing work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, we were able to identify the remains of Private First Class Roberts.
 
It was heartening news, especially to the Roberts family.  And now, I'm happy to say, he's been laid to rest back on American soil, on our most hallowed ground: Arlington National Cemetery. I had the honor of attending his funeral earlier today. 
 
Now he rests amid the rolling green hills and the ghostly white crosses of that cemetery. And I think it's more than fitting, because his burial there is a symbol of what this one person-this young man so far away from home-did for our country.
 
He gave his all-too-brief life in service to something greater than himself. He gave his life in service to his country.  He gave al his tomorrows so you could have today and tomorrow.
 
So, I want to recognize him and his service on the Senate floor tonight. Standing here today, I think of the words of the great British parliamentarian William Gladstone: "Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals."  And to the men and women of our armed forces, I want you to know that if you are ever separated, captured, missing, or killed in action, our country will spare no expense and will suffer any burden to bring you back, too.
 
Private First Class Larry Roberts died fighting for that highest ideal-that of freedom. He would've been 92 years old this year. It's because of him, and his bravery, and millions of Americans like him, that our country is still here, still standing, still free, as it has been . . . for 241 years.