Sen. Jim Inhofe: Oklahoma "hit hard, but we're not knocked out"

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., delivers the weekly Republican address broadcast May 25, 2013.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, whose home state of Oklahoma was battered by a massive and deadly tornado less than a week ago, promised perseverance in the face of tragedy in the weekly Republican address on Saturday, declaring, "Oklahoma has been hit hard, but we're not knocked out."

The tornado on Monday - the strongest and most devastating to strike Oklahoma in years - claimed 24 lives, nine of them children, as the storm flattened a 20-mile swath of an Oklahoma City suburb.

Inhofe said he, along with much of the nation, was particularly affected by the two elementary schools that were wiped out. "It was the last day of school for most of the students - you know how excited they get - when the storm tore through the town of Moore, leaving little in its path."

Inhofe praised the courage demonstrated by teachers who did what little they could to protect their students, and he marveled that even those who lived through the storm "are volunteering in the recovery and assisting efforts right now, and they're America's real heroes."

He encouraged his audience to donate to the American Red Cross or to the Salvation Army, saying the victims "desperately need your help."

The damage caused by the storm, according to some estimates, could exceed $2 billion.

President Obama has offered whatever federal assistance Oklahoma may need as it begins picking up the pieces in the wake of the tornado, and he will travel to Oklahoma on Sunday to observe the damage and monitor relief efforts.

In his own weekly address, Mr. Obama observed the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend with a tribute to America's "fallen heroes," extolling the bravery and the selflessness of "all the men and women who have given their lives in service to this country we love.

"We are who we are today - a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world" because of their sacrifice, Mr. Obama said.

And because only 1 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces, that sacrifice made by servicemen and women "isn't always readily apparent," the president said.

"Those who serve tend to do so quietly," he said. "They don't seek the limelight. They don't serve for our admiration, or even our gratitude. They risk their lives, and many give their lives, for something larger than themselves or any of us: the ideals of liberty and justice that make America a beacon of hope for the world."

"And because of that courage - that willingness to fight and even die - America endures," he said.

And while Memorial Day offers a chance to recall and give thanks for their courage and their sacrifice, the president said, "We must do more than remember."

He called on Americans to care for the families of the fallen and to remember the loved ones left behind when American troops are sent into harm's way "for they serve as well."

"And above all," he said, "we must make sure that the men and women of our armed forces have the support they need to achieve their missions safely at home and abroad."