By Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond OdiernoApril 16, 2015
Good evening. It is great to see so many people here tonight to come together to recognize five honorable men who have taught us all lessons about service.
To all of our distinguished guests: Secretary McHugh, sir, thank you for being here tonight; Honorable Robert Speer, and his wife, Maggie; Sergeant Major of the Army Daily, and his wife, Holly.
General Officers, Sergeants Major, and Soldiers, welcome. I am incredibly proud to be here this evening with so many great people.
I would like to begin by recognizing the Soldiers standing here tonight who represent the high standards and discipline inherent in our Army. And we are fortunate to have with us "Pershing's Own" -- the United States Army Band, and the Soldiers of the Old Guard, including the Fife and Drum Corps, and the US Army Drill Team. Please give them a round of applause.
Each of the Soldiers standing before you represents America's Army and the selfless service they have provided to our Nation for almost 240 years. Our Army stood up for our freedom and liberty in 1775. They led our Nation to victory fighting for our Nation's freedom in 1812. They kept this Nation united and together during the Civil War. The ingenuity, heroism, and indomitable spirit of our Soldiers were displayed in World War I and World War II. And whether in Vietnam, Korea, Panama, or in the deserts of the Middle East, our Army has successfully led and operated across the range of military operations. Their contributions to our country in peacetime stand beside their sacrifice in war as a lesson and example of the multi-facet service our Army and our Soldiers provide to the Nation.
But let's all remember, we could not do this without the support and commitment of the American people. And tonight, I have the honor of recognizing five exceptional men who have demonstrated this in their unwavering commitment to those who serve -- Mr. Stephen Colbert, Mr. Scott Davis, Mr. Bud Selig, Mr. Morrill Worcester, and Mr. Matt Zames.
Our first awardee this evening is Stephen Colbert who served our military nightly through his show, The Colbert Report. Entertaining our service members, directing donations to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, and promoting the First Lady's Joining Forces initiative, Colbert linked the American public with those who serve. He created a "shout out" on his show to honor any service member who sent him a flag, and he gave priority seating to our veterans always honoring those in uniform and those serving in harm's way far from home.
But what we all remember best is "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando" in 2009. He underwent so-called basic training, wore a uniform that resembled a bad knock off of Brooks Brothers, and he attempted to declare victory in Iraq. He entertained our troops for a week. I don't think anyone else has done this, either before or after. But what I want to reflect on was when Colbert made the strongest show of solidarity with our troops, when he sacrificed a valuable possession -- his hair. I have to say, this was one of the highlights of my tour getting to shave Colbert's hair, but Stephen -- I can assure you, I was only following orders.
Stephen's show has become an iconic part of American culture, but more importantly, he has helped to maintain the bond that connects our communities with our military -- helping to share the military story and what it means to live a life of selfless service for our service members, families, and veterans alike. Stephen, thank you for all you have done, and on behalf of the Army, we salute you.
Our next awardee is Scott Davis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the United Parcel Service. Since 2001, Scott has created a culture of support for our veterans, service members, veteran's organizations, and veteran programs. He understands that our service men and women are prepared to give it all and wants to recognize that sacrifice by leveraging their talents and skills.
During Scott's tenure, UPS has employed over 25,000 veterans and has pledged to hire an additional 25,000 more over the coming years. Scott has pledged 25,000 employee volunteer hours to help veterans and Veteran Service Organizations. And not only is he hiring and volunteering, but Scott is encouraging our veterans to lead within UPS - endorsing new opportunities for honorably discharged veterans and assisting them along the way. And he is demonstrating his organization's dedication to the Paralyzed Veterans of America by committing over $1M.
Scott and UPS continue to serve those who nobly serve our Nation. By their example, we are reminded of that spirit of giving back. It is dedicated Americans like Scott and all of UPS that make us realize how lucky we are to live in such a great country. We want to thank Scott for his leadership, and on behalf of the Army, we salute you. Unfortunately, he could not be here tonight, but Mr. Chip Meyers, VP of the Washington, D.C. Corporate Office, will be accepting the award on his behalf. With this, we salute UPS.
Tonight, we also recognize Bud Selig, Retired Major League Baseball Commissioner. Bud, your dedication to our Soldiers and their Families has been phenomenal. You showed tremendous leadership in raising awareness and support for the needs of America's veterans and families with the inception of Welcome Back Veterans in 2008. Donating over $20M to university hospitals, MLB has transformed the lives of countless veterans providing on-going treatment to them and their families for those suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
Under Bud's tutelage, Major League Baseball also honors Soldiers and their families on the home front. Teams across MLB pay tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces during games; they surprise veterans with tickets to the World Series; they donated $700K to fund a new housing complex for homeless veterans; and in 2013, MLB launched a program with People magazine called Tribute to Heroes, where each team's fans nominated a military member to represent each club at the 2013 All-Star Game. MLB's support has simply been extraordinary.
No matter where you go, you'll find Major League Baseball reaching out to Soldiers, veterans, and their families. Mr. Selig, your personal leadership has made a real difference to all of us who serve in uniform. On behalf of the Army, we salute you.
This evening, we also recognize the incredible dedication and service of Morrill Worcester, Founder of Wreaths of America. At 12 years old, he visited Arlington cemetery and left with an indelible impression that stayed with him throughout his life - always reminding himself of his good fortune and acknowledging that he owes it to the values of this Nation and those who serve.
One winter in 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths. And remembering back to his boyhood experience, he shipped those leftover wreaths to Arlington to be placed on the older sections of the cemetery. This tradition went on for years, until 2005, when a picture of Arlington cemetery adorned with wreaths and covered in snow went viral. It was then that this annual tradition in honor of our Service Members and our Fallen Heroes began to grow.
In 2010, Wreaths Across America and their national network of volunteers laid over 220,000 memorial wreaths at 545 locations in the United States and beyond. Each veteran's wreath is carefully laid by a volunteer -- children and adults alike. They do this to remember our fallen heroes, honor those who serve, and teach our children about the sacrifices made by our veterans and families. For those of us that have seen it, the sight of wreaths lying across the stones each December is both sobering and incredible.
The work that Morrill Worcester and Wreaths of America does to honor our Soldiers, our veterans, and our military families is a shining example of the difference one determined individual has made in the support of our military and their families. On behalf of the United States Army, we salute you sir.
Last, but by no means least, we honor Matt Zames, Chief Operating Officer, JPMorgan Chase. Matt is a committed and innovative supporter of the Armed Forces who is profoundly dedicated to the welfare of service members, Veterans, and their families. As Chief Operating Officer, Matt formed an alliance with other major corporate employers committed to hiring 100,000 military veterans, which has simply been amazing. They have reached that goal and are looking to hire 100,000 more veterans.
Matt and JPMorgan Chase have not stopped there. Supporting our veterans through housing assistance, education assistance, and volunteerism; their debt forgiveness for Gold Star families; and their service as a founding member of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. These are just a few of the many things that have made JPMorgan Chase a true leader in corporate support to veterans.
Matt, your contributions to our servicemen and women have had profound impacts on them, their families, and the Army. You have reminded us all the meaning of kindness as you honor those who serve and sacrifice. You have served those who nobly serve us, much to the good of our communities and Nation. Matt, thank you and JPMorgan Chase for all that you have done and all that you will continue to do. On behalf of the Army, we salute you.
Tonight, we have honored five incredible men who exemplify the phrase selfless service. Their steadfast commitment to all Service Members has been unwavering. They reach out for the simple, yet profound reason that they love their country. And they want to make a true difference for not only the Nation, but they want to make a true difference for our Soldiers and Families who sacrifice so much. We are indebted to each and every one of you, and we are proud each of you are here joining us tonight.
The strength of our Nation is our Army
The strength of our Army is our Soldiers
The strength of our Soldiers is our Families
And that is what makes us Army Strong!
Thank you very much.