WHCR Hosts Gulf War Tribute at Brucker
March 1, 2010
The White House Commission on Remembrance held a tribute to military personnel who perished during the Gulf War at Brucker Hall on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Sunday. The event recognized the 19th anniversary of the conflict, which included those who served in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Provide Comfort.
The ceremony brought together representatives from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, along with Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tammy Duckworth, diplomatic representatives from Kuwait and other Gulf War coalition partners, as well as family members of the fallen.
The ceremony began with master of ceremonies retired Navy Capt. Bill Perry ushering attendees forward into seating at the front of the auditorium.
"We're not in church. Therefore there is no reason to go into the back pews," he gently chided. When Perry began, "It is my great pleasure to introduce the special guests...," he briefly paused, looked out at the Families in the audience and started again. "You are our special guests," he emphasized. "But we have other special guests..."
Perry read off the names of representatives from Kuwait, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Morocco, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. Chap. (Maj.) Jay S. Johns III, Military District of Washington deputy command chaplain, offered a prayer, and noted the international representatives in attendance. "We are all shareholders in a global community. Tyranny against one is tyranny against all."
Col. Carl R. Coffman Jr., JBM-HH commander, said that despite the burdens military Families bear, they remain resilient.
"Army Families make our Army Families strong," he said. "Military Families make our nation strong." Carmella LaSpada, director of the White House Commission on Remembrance, read a roll call of Families in the audience affected by the Gulf War.
"In war time there are two casualties," LaSpada said. "- those who died on the battlefield and those affected on the home front."
Marine Brig. Gen. Robert Ruark spoke about the ongoing search for the remains of servicemembers in this nation's wars. "We will leave no one behind," he said. "This extends to the memories of those who died."
"We stand here today on the shoulders of those brave young men and women who are no longer with us," said Army Inspector General, Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb. "Let us always honor the coalition of freedom that stood up to confront Saddam Hussein. The Kuwaiti people have a newfound appreciation for democracy," Whitcomb said.
"I was one of the lucky ones," said Duckworth, a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost both legs to a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq. "I made it back. I should have died in Iraq, but I didn't. I wake up every single day and vow to do better, to live better and honor those who perished."
Vocalist MUC Yolanda Pelzer, accompanied by pianist MU1 Darrell Partin, both of the U.S. Navy Band, performed seven songs during the tribute. These musical interludes - "Turn, Turn, Turn," "From a Distance," "Memories," - served as balm-like segues from one portion of the program to another. Christine Jensen, president of the Indiana chapter of Gold Star Mothers, attended the ceremony in remembrance of her son, who was killed in Operation Desert Storm in 1992.
"I can't express how thankful I am to them [for the recognition]," she said.
The White House Commission on Remembrance was established by Congress in 2000. It promotes acts of remembrance for fallen servicemembers and their Families involved in various U.S. conflicts.