Statement by Secretary Panetta Following Visit to Tripoli Cemetery
I was deeply honored during my visit to Libya to have the opportunity to pay my respects to the heroes from the United States' first overseas war whose remains are interred in Tripoli's Protestant cemetery.
These brave sailors from the Intrepid, who died in the service of their country, have our nation's enduring respect and gratitude. Having sailed into harm's way to secure our nation's interests, they volunteered for a dangerous mission and paid the ultimate price. Their courage, and that of their fellow sailors and Marines, have forever emblazoned the shores of Tripoli in our nation's conscience.
It is a sign of the great friendship between the American and Libyan people that, in spite of the differences that have marked our governments' relations over the years, the Libyan people have maintained this cemetery with the respect and honor that it deserves, designating it a protected historic property.
Even in the most difficult of times, the Department of Archeology and Antiquities worked hard to protect and preserve this special site, spending significant resources to restore the cemetery to its original state and taking painstaking measures to protect the remains of our fallen sailors. The United States looks forward to working with Dr. Salah Agap and his team to ensure that this very special place remains an honored and protected landmark for both of our nations.
The Libyan people's outstanding work on the cemetery's restoration is a symbol of the values we share, including an appreciation of the need to honor those who have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of a cause greater than ourselves.
I cannot visit a place such as this without also reflecting on the thousands of Libyan people who gave their lives for freedom. They sacrificed so that Libya and her people could have a new era of hope and opportunity, and because of their sacrifices the torch of freedom burns brightly here in Libya.