Good morning/afternoon/evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this most special of American holidays about what it means for Soldiers to answer the Call to Duty and put their boots on the ground when they are needed and where they are needed..

On July 4th 1776, an assembly of brave and determined Americans announced to the world the birth of a new nation - a nation borne of ideals rather than of coercion, where the power to govern rested with the consent of the people.

In Thomas Jefferson's words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.--that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Livingston, Sherman...these bold colonists set in motion a radical experiment in democracy. As modern Americans, who have enjoyed these blessings for so long, it is easy for us to forget just how groundbreaking this experiment really was.

The Declaration of Independence signed by those visionaries caused panic in the capitals of Europe. The document was so revolutionary that King George III even ordered English churches to conduct prayer services against it. He also required his subjects to prepare for a war intended to abolish it.

But the declaration of independence also inspired enlightened men everywhere -- statesmen, scientists, philosophers, and theologians -- to abandon old ways of power and privilege and to embrace new ideals of freedom and justice. Slowly, they began to remake the world on principles that the founders believed were self-evident.

And the world has never been the same.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was the first Call to Duty. It ignited a firestorm and changed the world forever. And it was answered by America's sons and daughters, who fought and struggled to give birth to this new nation.

Today, amid fireworks and backyard barbecues, we reflect on the meaning of the Independence Day, and we pause to remember the tremendous effort and sacrifice of millions of Americans who have preserved that endowment of democracy in the past and for generations yet to come.

Two hundred and thirty years later, what does this day-Independence Day-mean to us as Americans'

[Speaker's view here]

For the Army and our Soldiers, this day is an affirmation of their Call to Duty, and a reminder of why they put boots on the ground ands risk life and limb to preserve freedom throughout the world. The Army was born more than a year before the declaration was signed in Philadelphia, on June 14th, 1775, as the Army was officially formed to be led by General George Washington.

For 231 years, the United States Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of our nation. Soldiers have fought in dozens of wars, from the American Revolution through two World Wars, the Cold War, and the Gulf War. We have answered the Call to Duty and had our boots on the ground.

And now our Soldiers are engaged in another great struggle to protect our nation and our way of life in the Global War on Terrorism.

Our Soldiers are the heart of the Army. They answer the Call to Duty as they always have, with their sacrifices, courage, and heroism.

Sergeant First Class Paul Smith was a member of the Third Infantry Division. He was the first to receive the Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terrorism. On April 4, 2003, he demonstrated the ultimate in heroism and sacrifice when he died while protecting his fellow Soldiers in a fierce ambush gun battle outside Baghdad airport. Even though he was outnumbered, Sergeant Smith stayed at his post, returning fire that enabled many of his fellow Soldiers to move to safety-until he was killed.

That is the Warrior Ethos in action, answering the Call to Duty, placing the mission first.

America's Soldiers answer another Call to Duty off the battlefields as well, performing countless acts of sacrifice and humanity every day-helping to bring freedom and improve the everyday lives of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soldiers like Chief Warrant Officer Randy Kirgiss, who collaborated with fellow Soldiers to resume a humanitarian effort the Soldiers dubbed operation teddy drop. Kirgiss, a black hawk helicopter pilot, and his fellow Soldiers used the internet to get the word out that they need support from back home to parachute stuffed animals to Iraqi children. "I believe that the children whose lives we have touched here will never forget our little gifts from the air," he said.

In Afghanistan, Captain Nicole Powell-Dunford, a flight surgeon based in Kandahar, is tireless in her care of not only her fellow Soldiers, but also of Afghan civilians. She brings modern medical care to Afghan villages, where because she is a woman, she is the first doctor some Afghan women have ever seen. Under Taliban rule, male doctors could not treat female patients, and women were not permitted to practice as physicians. Captain Powell-Dunford said she mostly treats everyday illnesses and problems of women brought on by childbirth. "Unfortunately we are seeing a lot of land mine injuries," she said. "This country still has a long way to go, but it's getting done."

Another group of dedicated Soldiers with medical training - Captain Steve Lindsley and Staff Sergeant Chris Cummings-are using their expertise to establish a free prosthetics clinic in Iraq. Lindsley is a certified prosthetist, while Cummings ran a prosthetics company before being mobilized. At their new clinic, they have helped hundreds of Iraqis, including children and teenagers, who have lost limbs in terrorist attacks. Cummings even renewed his commitment to the Army as well as the Iraqi people. "I promised a lot of people I was going to help them-I can't go back on my promises," he said. "I am extending to keep those promises." These are just a handful of the many, many examples of how our Soldiers answer-and indeed go far beyond-the Call to Duty - Boots on the Ground.

On Independence Day, it is especially important to focus on the many freedoms Americans take for granted. ...freedoms that United States Soldiers are bringing to Iraq and Afghanistan. With American assistance, Iraqis and Afghans are fighting their own wars of independence-against tyranny, extremism, and hatred. Before U.S. Soldiers arrived, freedom of speech in Iraq was not only nonexistent; it was punished by torture and death. Today, there are hundreds of newspapers in Iraq. Many are critical of the United States, but our victory is in their very existence. Before Saddam Hussein's regime was taken out, only about 400 satellite television dishes belonged to the elite of the Ba'ath party. Today, tens of thousands of satellite dished cover Iraqi rooftops, as the Iraqi people finally taste freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of choice.

Despite repeated threats of violence and retribution, millions of Iraqis democratically chose their government for the first time in history on January 30th, 2005. Terrorists threatened polls and election workers but the Iraqi people refused oppression and bravely cast their ballots. The same was true in Afghanistan-Afghans waited for four hours to exercise their new rights. Some were so excited they registered to vote more than once. "The Taliban burned my house, they kicked us out of (town)," said Madame Gule in the Village of Raban. "Now I have freedom. I'm standing in front of you and voting. Of course my life has been changed."

Terrorists in Iraq know that freedom, once ignited, can never be stopped. The insurgents know their days are numbered against a banner of freedom. The Iraqi people are standing up against terrorism.

During this time of great sacrifice for our nation as it fights a war against terrorism on a global scale, our Soldiers need your help in answering the Call to Duty. All Americans can answer the Call to Duty by recognizing their sacrifices and celebrating their courage.

On this 4th of July, thank a Soldier for giving up the pleasures of home and family for the hardship of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Our Soldiers continue to bring freedom throughout the world. Today-Independence Day-let us celebrate this great day in their honor, and in the honor of the people they are helping to free.

Soldiers who answer the Call to Duty are engaged in the noblest work of life. They are America's sons and daughters, putting boots on the ground to protect our nation and enable others to live free.

I urge you to continue your support by finding your own ways to answer the Call to Duty. Americans have always shown their appreciation for Soldiers' sacrifices in the toughest of times.

If there are any veterans here today, please stand so we may recognize you.

[Lead applause]

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16