Feb. 22, 2008 - Salute to the Military Remarks
February 25, 2008
CSA as prepared Remarks Salute to the Military Anchorage, Alaska 22 February 2008 / 2045 A-fEoe Thank you Senator Stevens for that very kind introduction and for your support for the men and women of our armed forces both here and back in Washington. A-fEoe Senator Murkowski, Mayor [of Anchorage] Begich, and other distinguished guests. It is a great honor to be part of this 31st annual event. This tribute to our military is a tremendous testimony to the special affinity between the military and the community here in Alaska. A-fEoe So thanks to the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska for hosting this and for all the sponsors and individuals who make this event happen each year. A-fEoe A special thanks also to employers of our servicemen and women in the National Guard and Reserve. Your patriotism and sacrifice have enabled them to serve our Nation. Rest assured - your support for the Guard and Reserve is being matched back in Washington. I just visited the 39th BCT from Arkansas as they trained at Camp Shelby Mississippi. A-fEoe Of course the real purpose of this event is to recognize our men and women in uniform of all services, Active, Guard, and Reserve as well as their Families. They are the real Heroes. They are the ones who are on the frontlines of the War on Terror. They are the ones who deserve our gratitude and support. * * * A-fEoe And it is fitting that this Salute to the Military is being held today - on the birthday of George Washington (in 1732). A great soldier, president, and role model who formed the Continental Army and led them to victory over two centuries ago in a war that shaped this great country. A-fEoe Consider for a moment, David McCullough's book 1776, which describes in stirring detail how the fledgling American cause was literally riding on the success of those who march with General Washington. A-fEoe After a fateful summer in New York with no success and many failures -including defeats at Long Island and White Plains, and the loss of New York City- the forces under Washington ultimately escaped -demoralized- to Pennsylvania. A-fEoe At what has to be considered the lowest ebb in the fortunes of the Continental Army, Washington planned and led a surprise attack on a Hessian Garrison of about 1,400 in Trenton, New Jersey on the evening of 25 December 1776. A-fEoe A force of 2,400 men crossed the Delaware River and according to McCullough despite "having been on their feet all night, wet, cold, their weapons soaked, [they] went into the fight as if everything depended on them." It did! A-fEoe With a tremendous victory resulting in 21 Hessian dead, 90 wounded, 900 prisoners, and 500 fleeing, the young American force -which had only four wounded and no dead- renewed hope among themselves, Congress, and the general population. A-fEoe The stakes today are just as significant. A-fEoe We have been at war for over six years, fighting for our freedom, our security and our future as a Nation. We are locked in a war against a global extremist network that is fixed on defeating the United States and destroying our way of life. This foe will not give up easily. A-fEoe Faced with such a long and difficult struggle, it is useful to remind ourselves that freedom isn't free and that our military exists to field forces for victory just as we did in Washington's time. A-fEoe Tonight provides the opportunity to remember those who have who have worn the uniform and borne arms in America's defense - and have therefore carried forth Washington's legacy of selfless service to the Nation. A-fEoe They are the guardians of our country and their willingness to sacrifice to preserve our way of life and build a better future for others remains this Nation's greatest strength. A-fEoe From Trenton to Belleau Wood, from the Battle of the Pacific to D-Day, from the Chosin Reservoir to Vietnam, our veterans have demonstrated unmatched courage, commitment, and willingness to sacrifice to accomplish any mission. A-fEoe They have served the country with incredible honor and distinction. A-fEoe They understood, as few others have, that our Constitution and the liberties it guarantees are worth fighting for. A-fEoe They sacrificed personal comfort and safety to answer a higher calling: service in the cause of freedom, both at home and abroad. A-fEoe Today's men and women in uniform are no different. They are imbued with ideals the Army calls the Warrior Ethos. Aca,!Ac I will always place the mission first. Aca,!Ac I will never quit. Aca,!Ac I will never accept defeat. Aca,!Ac I will never leave a fallen comrade. A-fEoe Today's men and women in uniform helped to rescue two nations from oppression and liberated over 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. A-fEoe Today's men and women in uniform understand that this is a struggle we must win. A-fEoe Today's men and women in uniform are motivated by an unwavering belief that they will be victorious on the field of battle. A-fEoe They are volunteers, doing a difficult duty against an enemy who does not value life, is afraid of liberty, and desires to crush the individual pursuit of a democratic way of life. A-fEoe Their dedication to this noble effort underscores their determined professionalism and tenacity. A-fEoe I am humbled by their sacrifices in the service of our Nation and I am proud to serve alongside them. * * * A-fEoe The service and sacrifice is also exhibited by the Families of those that wear the uniform - and their service is just as significant and their sacrifice just as real. A-fEoe Families go thru deployments .. not just those in uniform; and it is families who live through the ups and downs of military life. A-fEoe Without strong and supportive families the military would not be as good as it is today and America would not be as secure. A-fEoe I thank you for your dedication to your spouse, your support of our military, and your love of country. * * * A-fEoe Let me return briefly to 1776. A-fEoe It is a little known fact that just days before the Trenton attack (19 December), Thomas Paine, who had taken time off from Soldiering to return to Philadelphia and publish a pamphlet called "The American Crisis" to help rally the cause of freedom. A-fEoe Washington was so impressed that he had it read to those gathered on the banks of the Delaware River. A-fEoe It began with these well known words: "These are times that try men's souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." A-fEoe Illustrative of the type of person now in uniform who has not shrunk from service and "stands it now" is Sergeant Gregory Williams, a squad leader in 1/5th Infantry, 1st SBCT, 25th Infantry Division here in Alaska. A-fEoe The last time I was here in Alaska -in December- I had the honor to participate in an ceremony which honored Sergeant Williams and awarded him a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) -the award just below the Medal of Honor- for his actions in Iraq. A-fEoe It is a story I tell often -in Washington and elsewhere- to show what our men and women are capable of doing and the tremendous quality of today's military. A-fEoe Last October, Sergeant Williams was on a patrol in Baghdad when his Stryker was hit by an explosively formed penetrator. He was knocked out. He was on fire. His eardrums burst. A-fEoe When he woke up, he put the flames out on himself and other Soldiers around him before grabbing a first aid bag to treat his comrades. He then pulled his lieutenant out of the track, all while under fire from an ambush of rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s. A-fEoe After unloading his four M4 magazines on the insurgents, Sergeant Williams realized that no one was on the .50 caliber machinegun, so he got back on the track - still filled with 30 pounds of C4 explosives and det chord. He brought the .50 caliber to bear, firing over 300 rounds until the enemy fled. A-fEoe And for that, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. A-fEoe Sergeant Williams's actions that day were tremendously heroic. Yet, he is not alone. A-fEoe In fact, since 9-11 the military has awarded two Medals of Honor, 35 Distinguished Service, Navy and Air Force Crosses , and scores of Bronze and Silver Stars for valor. A-fEoe Yet perhaps more significant are the vast majority of Americans, who have served both in and out uniform during our Nation's history and have done so selflessly, honorably, and quietly. A-fEoe They are accomplishing their mission in difficult and demanding environments, and are making Americans proud. A-fEoe Seldom in our history have our men and women in uniform faced greater challenges. We serve at a time when the stakes for our nation and our way of life are high, and the demands on our force significant. We will continue to reflect the very best of our nation by defeating the enemies of freedom and the proponents of terror, by defending our homeland and by assisting our nation to build a better future for coming generations. A-fEoe I could not be more proud to wear the uniform today and to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and your Families during this time of danger and uncertainty. A-fEoe Again, it was a real pleasure to speak to you this evening. A-fEoe Thank you.