By Alex McVeighSeptember 29, 2008
Fort Myer's Whipple Field has seen its share of ceremonies, whether it be commanders coming or going, or simply recognition of a certain person or event. One might be hard pressed to find a ceremony of more importance than what took place Wednesday, however. Secretary of the Army Pete Geren hosted an Armed Forces retirement ceremony for two former Chairmen of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner (Va.) and Congressman Duncan Hunter (Calif.). It was appropriate that both men were honored, as both men worked together on many defense bills, all aimed at strengthening America's armed forces into what they are today. Ceremonial units from the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard were present, along with the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," who performed a brief pre-ceremony concert. With the downtown Washington D.C., skyline behind them and a billowing American flag above them, the joint services color guard slowly marched into the field just prior to the arrival of the official party. Geren started off the ceremony by speaking about what both men had accomplished in their years of service. Between their military time and their legislative careers, their combined years of service are over three quarters of a century, Geren said. "These leaders have served our nation over many decades, in and out of uniform, in times of war and times of peace," he said. "It is a privilege and a pleasure to honor them today, and to celebrate the partnership between our military and our congress, a partnership that has served our nation well." Hunter served in the Army beginning in 1969, and served in Vietnam with the Army Ranger's 75th Regiment. He participated in 24 helicopter assaults, and was awarded the bronze star among other achievements. Hunter has been in the House since 1980, when he defeated an 18-year incumbent. He served as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee from 2003-2007. Warner served in both the Navy and the Marines, enlisting in the Navy at 17. After his naval service was complete, he attended college at Washington and Lee University. After graduation, he began to study law at the University of Virginia. When the Korean War began in 1950, Warner took a hiatus from his law studies to serve as an officer in the Marine Corps, where he eventually reached the rank of captain. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke after Geren, and he too extolled the virtues of the two men. "Both men carried [their military service] not as challenges, but as opportunities," he said. "Opportunities to make a difference, to define service and to define quality of service in a way that marks them forever." In their responses, both men began with a tribute to each other, saying that they made it possible together what they were able to accomplish. Warner concluded his remarks by saying that his military experiences were what gave him the ability to serve as long as he had, and he is grateful for that. "I stand here, filled with honor and a great sense of humility, only because of what I learned by way of training and discipline," he said. The ceremony concluded with a joint service medley played by the U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) and with that music, the closing words of Geren were what attendees took away. "Senator Warner and Congressman Hunter will be missed by all who had the privilege to serve with them, and every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman who may serve," he said.