It is good to be home. Isn't it good to be home? You know it is. I want to begin by, if I may, adding my words of appreciation and welcome to the distinguished guests that you heard the names of here previously, certainly the governor of the great state of New York, Governor Cuomo, congresswoman elect Stefanik, Assemblywoman Russell, Assemblyman Blankenbush, also of course, Sen. Patty Ritchie, Col. Hassey, Tony Keating, my good friend and civilian aide…indeed to just about everybody in the first four or five rows here that I've seen coming in.
The folks who I know from personal experience have worked for so many years, indeed, so many decades, in support of this great facility and in support of these incredible men and women who don the uniform of the United States Army and put that 10th Mountain Division patch on their arm. You honor these soldiers, as you always have, by your persistence, presence and your attendance here.
Governor, Sir, particularly - going back to your time and our association as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, where you were so supportive of the initiatives in the North Country to this very moment in your second term now as the Governor of the great state of New York - we deeply appreciate your appreciation and your support, as well as the state of New York's, for this amazing installation, for our community in which it calls home and, of course, our Soldiers and their families.
And I know, given that support that you bring to work each and every day, our partnership in the days and years ahead will only continue to grow. And we're deeply appreciative of that.
To General Milley, Major General Townsend and Command Sergeant Major Lewis, all the extraordinary men and women of the 10th Mountain Division who proudly stand before us, thank you, personally, for the invitation to be here. I guess the second time is a charm, Steve, in this particular instance.
And although the temperature may call for snow, it's holding off, so I appreciate the break in the weather. But most importantly, to have this enormous privilege to share this very important moment with all of you.
As is obvious now, we're here to celebrate the coming home of the colors of the 10th Mtn. Division to the United States and, of course, to the North Country. At the same time, of course, we embrace many of our own back into our fold happily -- I think it bears noting - just in time for the holidays. So, as has been said, Welcome Home, not just to the Division Headquarters, not just to the Muleskinners, but indeed, to Team Drum. An amazing job stretching, yes, over deployments of the last 18 months but, really, a mission that has stretched now for well over a decade.
And I want to just tell you just how proud I was to have the honor and the opportunity to hook the Somalia Streamer onto your colors. Yours is the first across the United States Army who has been allowed to display that streamer and I think it is altogether fitting given that historic and, I would say, unfortunately sometimes overlooked mission which began for this Division and began for America some 22 years ago. It was a great thrill for me to have the chance to approve that streamer and, as I would also note, it's particularly appropriate that we celebrate - that we recognize - in the presentation of those streamers, our Army's long tradition of service and sacrifice. And to do it right here where so much of that history has been written.
This is really a time to reflect on what has really been a generational journey--a journey of over twenty years that has taken us through two wars -- one in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan and a second in Iraq, that has taken us to a place where we have the opportunity for a new beginning for both of those nations.
And because of the courage, because of the resiliency of our military and our international partners --partnership within our own government and in Afghanistan -- your journey home has helped make our world and indeed our Nation safer. And because of men and women like each and every one of you, men and women of the 10th Mountain Division, the people of Afghanistan have a precious gift: it's the gift of a chance -- a chance for freedom…a chance to stand on their own…a chance for a better tomorrow. And there is no way any Soldier can provide a greater gift than that.
And it's also a time to reflect. Reflect on what has been achieved over these many years. What we have learned, and how each and every one of you has made a difference. And, it's a time, too, as has been noted by the Governor, to remember those we have lost. We should always remember brave men and devoted Soldiers like Fort Drum's Sergeant Major Wardell B. Turner who just mere days ago lost his life in an IED attack in Kabul. We must remember him, his wife, his five precious children. His mother, Wanda. And I pledge you this: together we will make sure that Sergeant Major Turner's sacrifice is long told and always, always remembered.
And in addition to the souls we grieve, we must remember as well those for whom the wounds of war remain. And the Governor spoke about it. And he posed the exact correct question: Will we care for those Soldiers? And knowing what I have experienced over the last five years, I can tell you this. Our promise is: We will care for you. Your nation will care for you. You and your families deserve the better future that your sacrifices have helped secure.
Now, as some of you may guess, as Secretary of the Army, I have many opportunities to take part in a variety of ceremonies and events across our Army. Each has really tremendous meaning - to me, to the Army family. And of course, no matter where I go, no matter with whom I visit I'm not expected to have favorites. I have the honor of being the Secretary for all of the Army. But I would note since this is the only division post I can readily drive to from my home, you're free to guess where my heart truly lies.
Like so many in this great audience, I've grown up with this installation -- from my birth, when it was known as Pine Camp, to now and its time as only one of 10 maneuver bases in our Army and a true power projection platform. And over the years, I have been honored and indeed blessed to get to know so many who served and lived here.
And like Fort Drum, the 10th Mountain Division has a long and storied legacy -- a legacy that each of you today continues to nurture and continues to grow.
And as is well known in this place, the 10th Mountain Division was the last headquarters to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, which seems especially fitting given that it was the 10th that represented the first division headquarters to deploy to that theatre more than a dozen years ago.
And as the Governor noted, it is particularly fitting, too, that the final chapter in a war first declared on the soil of New York state is now being written by a unit housed and trained within New York state's borders. Indeed, the story of this long war cannot be fully told without including your story - the story of the 10th Mountain Division, whose valor and courage produced great victories, and whose losses and sacrifices will always sadden our hearts.
The 10th Mountain's fearlessness and devotion to brothers-in-arms during OEF are forever memorialized in your two Medal of Honor winners -- Staff Sergeant Jared Monti and Captain Will Swenson.
As I said, yours is a proud heritage but it's also an equally weighty legacy.
But it is a legacy that I know you continue to build upon each and every day. It is a legacy that will endure far beyond our time and service. But you are building upon what you have brought to reality. Simply put, the creation of the greatest land force the world has ever known. You have done your job, you have done it extraordinarily well and no one could ask a single thing of you in addition.
I am so proud to have the ability to work alongside each and every one of you, the men and women who ask nothing more than 'How can I serve? How can I make a difference?'
God bless you. Welcome home. Happy Holidays. Climb to Glory.