Army Birthday Speech 2006

Call to Duty - Boots on the Ground

(approximately 10 minutes in length)

It is a pleasure to be here today on the occasion of the Army's Birthday to talk to you about your Army, and a 231 - year legacy of sacrifice and service to our nation.

On June 14, 1775, a small band of patriots joined together to fight for a set of ideals. Those ideals were nothing less than revolutionary. Today we continue to defend our country and our democratic ideals with an all-volunteer force. Soldiers today, and 231 years ago alike, responded to something we refer to as the "Call to Duty."

Serving one's country is a noble calling and, I believe, among life's greatest work. Nothing illustrates our nation's commitment more than putting our boots on the ground where they are needed.

During the Revolutionary War, America's first Army was armed with little more than hunting muskets. Most enlistees had no uniforms. Gunpowder was scarce, and boots, to many, were a luxury. Those Soldiers had little more than those ideals to sustain them.

Today's Army is the best trained, best led and most capable Army in our history. We continue to take on the many challenges that we face today with extraordinary skill and devotion. You can be proud of the fact that today our Soldiers have boots on the ground in more than 120 countries and we continue to play a vital role in the Global War on Terror.

As many of you already know, the United States military is frequently listed at the top of opinion polls as the most respected institution in the country. And it is for a reason. Today, hundreds of thousands of Soldiers of the United States Army, my service, are deployed, forward stationed overseas or securing the homeland. Our Army remains the preeminent land power in the world today, and will remain so, primarily because of the courageous men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the American Soldier.

In the winter of 1776, with thousands of Soldiers' enlistments about to expire, and the fate of our fledgling Nation uncertain, Thomas Paine wrote "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer Soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

One hundred and seventy years later, our Nation was again at war, but we met the challenge there, too. The men and women that fought and won the Second World War are often referred to as the Greatest Generation. Just as Pearl Harbor was the call to arms for that generation, the attacks of September 11th serve as the Call to Duty for today's generation. And, just as America's Soldiers helped win the Second World War, so too will today's generation, the grandsons and granddaughters of the Greatest Generation, help win the Global War on Terrorism.

In one of the most famous quotes from American history, President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address in 1961, challenged Americans to serve their country, saying "Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. Now the trumpet summons us again...The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

Those few eloquent words galvanized a generation of Americans to serve, and President Kennedy's words remain as true today as they were forty-four years ago.

Today, our Soldiers serving in the all-volunteer force represent all that is right and good about our Nation. In the words of Secretary of the Army, Francis J. Harvey, "Since 1775, the Army has answered the Call to Duty by sacrificing personal comfort and safety for the good of our nation. Today's Soldiers are engaged in keeping America safe, and furthering the cause of freedom both at home and abroad."

Let me tell you some recent stories about our Soldiers. Soldiers like Sergeant First Class Paul Smith, the recipient of the first Medal of Honor awarded in the Global War on Terrorism. Sergeant Smith fought above and beyond the call of duty, against overwhelming odds, and he died saving the lives of his fellow Soldiers. He was a role model to his Soldiers, a loving husband to his wife, and a dedicated father to his children. He epitomized the Army's Warrior Ethos: I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. And I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Paul Smith also embodied the Army Values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The Warrior Ethos and the Army Values are traits that all Americans should strive to uphold, for they form the foundation of a good citizen, one who is dedicated to the security of his country and the welfare of his fellow Americans.


Captain Janis Follwell is another sterling example of humanity. As an Army physician, Captain Follwell was the provost of a large combat surgical hospital in Iraq. During her tour of duty, Follwell treated hundreds of Soldiers who had been wounded by insurgents and by suicide bombers. She even donated her own blood to save the life of a young Soldier.

Spc. Maria C. Flores-Sanz earned recognition for her bravery by driving two Soldiers in her vehicle to safety, and then returning to the scene of a terrorist attack in Iraq, to help evacuate other injured Soldiers.

Spc. Raymond Loftis earned a Bronze Star for protecting a fellow Soldier and manning the weapons station of an ammunition supply vehicle during a terrorist attack in Baghdad. Spc. Loftis' patrol came upon an ammunition carrier that was hit with an IED. After removing a seriously wounded Soldier from the vehicle, he realized that his patrol was receiving sniper fire, and he acted as a human shield for the wounded Soldier as he provided suppressive fire with his squad automatic weapon. "I was just doing my job," Spc. Loftis said. "

Our Soldiers today answer the Call to Duty through the character of their service and sacrifice. And they are

re-enlisting in record numbers because they believe their service is making a difference in the world. As is often the case, our Soldiers are the face of America that the world sees. And in that role they have clearly come through as the emissaries of a kind and just people.

In these life experiences - whether it is helping a sick child receive medical care in Afghanistan, building a new school in Iraq, or rescuing the victims of the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina - our Soldiers know they are members of a team dedicated to something much greater than self. These life experiences strengthen their character and instill within them a personal commitment to improving the lives of all they touch. This is the essence of Call to Duty.

There is a common thread that runs through their motivation to serve. They answer the Call to Duty because they believe in the adage "freedom isn't free" and that the freedoms that we so often take for granted are worth fighting for.

These are recent examples of the bravery and selfless sacrifice that personifies the American Soldier. Since 1775, we have witnessed time and again the Call to Duty. Today, as we celebrate the birthday of the United States Army, we reflect on the character - and the awesome achievements - of the generations of brave Soldiers who have put their boots on the ground, and borne arms in defense of American ideals.

On behalf of the over one million Soldiers of the United States Army, thank you for your continued support of our Soldiers and their families.

Thank you very much.

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