VCSA's remarks at 1st Ranger Awards Ceremony

By VCSAMay 5, 2016

Thank you for inviting me today, it's truly an honor to share in a ceremony honoring the valiant Rangers of the 1st Ranger Battalion. As a Just Cause Veteran with Hardrock Charlie, it always feels like coming home to return to Savannah . . . and you broke me out of Washington D.C. for a day. So for multiple reasons today . . . and every day you are absolutely the greatest outfit in the Army. It is especially rewarding to spend time with the Warriors of our Ranger Regiment. I truly live in awe and admiration of our Rangers . . . and all Freedom-loving Patriots sleep better at night knowing that this strike force stands ready to fight in any terrain, weather or God-forsaken corner of the earth, to protect our country, our families and our very way of life.

In the wake of the attacks on 9/11, President Bush said, and I quote, "We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. Peace and Freedom will prevail" end quote. He was referring to American resolve, and no unit in our Army upholds that promise like the 75th Ranger Regiment. One of the few units that has remained constantly deployed since 9-11, your contribution is unmatched over the last 13 and half years of war. The Warrior Ethos you embrace uplifts the entire Joint Force, and signals unequivocal, relentless determination to the enemies of our Nation. Today we celebrate that ethos, along with the values of courage and valor. The example this unit sets, and the expertise the Ranger Regiment builds and carries to the rest of the Force, is a large part of what makes us the greatest fighting Force in the world.

To put things in context, during Summer 2011, the International Security Assistance Force surge in Afghanistan was at its peak, and we were in the process of eradicating the Taliban from historic strongholds. The Warriors of the 1st Ranger Battalion delivered a decisive role. They were conducting precision targeting against hardened Taliban fighters of the Haqanni network, integrated and living in villages across Eastern Afghanistan. You fought in places that will forever resound in Ranger Lore. Names like Khost, Paktika, and Nangarhar, will hold a hallowed place in the hearts and souls of all Veterans of the Afghanistan campaign. And as the Battalion has done since its formation in 1974 . . . you Rangers . . . Lead the way with courage and valor.

Many famous men have attempted to describe courage and valor. Nelson Mandlla, a heroic warrior of a very different struggle, said, and I quote, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it." Perhaps the most appropriate description of what we celebrate today is from the American General Mathew Ridgeway, who described courage, as "the product of the development of self-control, self-discipline, physical endurance, of knowledge of one's job and, therefore of confidence." Nowhere is that discipline, endurance, expertise and confidence more apparent than in the 1st Ranger Battalion, and it's reflected in the eyes of every Ranger in this formation. Knowing that you serve with our Nation's best, gives you the courage to always do your duty . . . and triumph over fear. And that courage was on full display during the summer of 2011.

So some may ask why we do this . . . why we so publically celebrate and recognize valor . . . and Honor our Warriors. Let me offer a perspective. First, we do this to honor our Rangers' selfless service, and the sacrifice they made during this deployment. The act of honoring their service gives us strength for the future battles we will fight. We honor men like Staff Sergeant Travis Dunn and all of our Wounded Warriors who demonstrate remarkable resiliency and inspire us daily with their determination and intestinal fortitude. Extraordinary Heroes, All! I ask you all to join me as we recognize all of our Wounded Warriors present here today with a round of applause. And by celebrating the valor of these awardees, we honor the sacrifice of all who have served before them, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice . . . and laid down their lives in defense of the values we unwaveringly pursue, and the freedom our service guarantees. Men like Staff Sergeant Jeremy Katzenberger (cat -- zen -- burger), who at the age of 26, was on his 8th deployment, and as a Ranger Squad leader, represented the selfless Warrior we all aspire to be. And Sergeant Allesandro Plutino, who voluntarily extended his enlistment to deploy for the sixth time with his comrades, and gave his life in the process. These men are the epitome of Selfless Servants . . . they moved further, fought harder, and shouldered more than their share of the task, time and time again . . . and thank God our Nation has Warriors of this caliber. This ceremony also honors all 5634 Soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 60,000 Americans who died in Vietnam, the 36,000 in Korea, the 520,000 during our World Wars, and the 750,000 during the U.S. Civil War. And in the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced . . . It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining here before us." End quote. We honor our wounded and fallen by finishing the task for which they gave their lives . . . by delivering service and sacrifice equal to their last full measure of devotion.

Second, we very publicly celebrate the valorous actions of the 1st Ranger Battalion in order to remind the American people what you do, so they can rest easy in full knowledge that tonight . . . as every night for the last 40 plus years . . . our Rangers stand the watch . . . Ready to visit vigilant violence on those who mean our nation or our people harm. So few Americans serve today, less than one percent, and many in our Country neglect the very human nature of war . . . the pain, suffering, and human triumph that comes from close combat against a determined enemy. War exacts a horrific cost on those duty-bound to prosecute the Nation's toughest business . . . closing with and destroying the enemies of our country. So, yes, we gather here today to remind them of the sacrifice of our Warriors present here and American Warriors spread across the globe, in defense of the freedom that some, less invested, take for granted.

Finally, we celebrate so publically today and reiterate a promise to the world of the indomitable spirit of the Warriors of the United States of America, led by the Rangers of this Battalion. We are engaged in a war with an enemy as evil as any in our history, intent on attacking our Nation and our Families, who execute thousands of their neighbors solely because they embrace a different faith, and who ruthlessly behead our aid workers sent on missions of mercy and compassion. We must remind them, like we did for three months during the summer of 2011 in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, that Rangers will go anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, to protect our Country, our People, and our freedom . . . of this you can be sure . . . today, tomorrow, and for thousands of tomorrows.

"We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail." This is an inspiring quote . . . but the American resolve President George W. Bush referred to is not new, and it would have been equally powerful had he simply recited: "Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor." Your actions make me prouder than ever to be a Ranger and a Veteran of this historic outfit. God Bless you, our great supporting Ranger Families, and all of our Heroes Serving Near and Far . . . Rangers Lead the Way!