MADISON, Ala.--Today's warfighter owes the warfighter of yesterday, the commander of the Army Contracting Command said at the 13th Annual Prayer Breakfast here.

Maj. Gen. Paul H. Pardew was the guest speaker at the Heart of the Valley YMCA event Nov. 9.

"What do we owe you," he asked. "In today's world of modernization and advancement, today's warfighter must have a determination to be ready for the mission."

More than 250 active duty and veterans of the armed forces and members of their families, law enforcement officers, and state and local government and business leaders gathered for the event at the Craig and Steven Hogan Family YMCA.

Referring to the veterans in attendance as "the real special guests," Pardew asked the active duty and veterans in attendance to stand and be recognized. He praised them as men and women who have fought "with honor for our great country."

"You are our true heroes," he said. "You have given each of us in the room one of the most precious treasures we could ever dream of--our freedom."

He also praised families for their support.

"Every member of the military knows the value of a support system," he said. "I recognize all the times you have had to pick up and move, leave behind friends and work, start over, spend time in unpleasant climates or remote areas in the world. We know you make decisions that impact your household, which can impact your country. Never forget how important you are to all of us."

He also talked about the future.

"The next generation of our armed forces will have never not known war," he said. "At age 18 by the end of this decade, the young men and women entering service will have been born around or by Sept. 11 (2001). Many of them will volunteer to carry on what is your legacy, because they grew up hearing your stories of how and why you joined. You will teach them the values you live by within your branch. You will be their heroes, and you will influence their lives. And that is what Veterans Week is about -- celebrating the best in what we all have done and can do.

"I know that you, the veterans here today, will always carry the military standards with you," he continued. "Your great example has been passed on to the next generation and will continue to do so, and the military of today and tomorrow can thrive because of your service."

The breakfast concluded by recognizing members and veterans of the various armed forces with the singing of the Armed Forces Medley. They stood to be recognized as their service songs were sung.