Vice President Cheney Welcomes First Team Soldiers Home
February 27, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - With secret servicemen scattered in a sea of Soldiers and cameras the 1st Cavalry Division parade field looked like a scene from the next box-office suspense thriller Feb. 26. However, it wasn't a "Hollywood" set.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney was visiting the division to welcome home Fort Hood troopers on Cooper Field.
Cheney was greeted by a roaring crowd of about 9,000 Soldiers, in what the division's commanding general Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks referred to as a welcome so loud that not only would the vice president feel welcomed, but their brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan would be able to hear them as well.
Cheney, who visited prior to the First Team's deployment in October 2006, started by saying it was an honor to be back at Fort Hood and extended President George W. Bush's respect and good wishes to his recently redeployed troops.
Sgt. Rebekah Withers said that having the vice president take the time to travel from Washington, D.C., to see Soldiers off and, now, welcome them back shows he cares and supports what service members do for the country.
"For the younger Soldiers, I think it's pretty exciting, because how often do you see the vice president'" added the military policewoman from Lehighton, Pa.
This was Wither's first deployment but she knows how hard it is, especially for those who have been there three or four times already and have lost friends and time with their families.
"It's nice to know that the sacrifices are worth something," she added.
Cheney said that he understands the gravity of the demands placed on the Soldiers of the division now and historically.
"For many decades time and time again this country has counted on the First Team to slug it out against freedom's enemies," Cheney said.
Cheney credited the recent the progress made in Iraq to that hard work by the division and each of their subordinate units. He spoke about the decrease in sectarian violence, the fall in improvised explosive devices, and the developed trust between Iraqi citizens and America Soldiers.
"We have managed to avoid another 9-11 not because of good luck, but because of hard work," Cheney said. "The challenges were immense but you never pulled away from the mission and you did in fact turn things around.
"Your efforts as part of the counter insurgency ordered by the president, implemented by (Gen. David H. Petraeus), (Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno) helped prepare the way for the political progress we are now seeing in Baghdad."
In recent weeks, the Iraqi parliament has passed key legislation to advance the cause of reconciliation, which according to Cheney, was not possible 15 months ago.
"We've kept the pressure on the enemy, going after the terrorists, doing what it takes to shut down their training camps, to deny them sanctuary, to disrupt their funding and to bring them to justice," he said. "In that effort some of the most difficult and dangerous work has been carried out by all of you - members of the United States Army."
However, the first in the line of presidential succession reminded the troops in attendance that the progress made is not irreversible and not without costs.
"We know as well you've had to face sorrow, day-to-day, minute-to-minute, you fought for the Soldiers on either side of you," he said. "When a comrade falls, it's hard to say goodbye to someone you cared about, knew by name, called a friend. You'll remember them and the United States of America will honor their service, sacrifice and memory."
Cheney said the story of this deployment is best summed up by the words of the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team's commander Col. David W. Sutherland who said "the men and women in my formation fought day in day out to destroy the terrorists... they went places no man or woman should every have to go they saw things no man or woman should ever have to see."
"America is the kind of country that stands up to brutality, terror and injustice and you the men and women of the First Team are the kind of people we send to get the job done."