By Spc. Jeffrey Ledesma,February 27, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, Feb. 27, 2008) -- Vice President Richard B. Cheney visited Fort Hood Feb. 26 to welcome home a roaring crowd of about 9,000 troopers from the 1st Cavalry Division and he credited the recent progress in Iraq to hard work by the Soldiers.
Cheney spoke about the decrease in sectarian violence, the fall in improvised explosive devices, and the trust developed between Iraqi citizens and American Soldiers. He said that progress has been "undeniable," but also told those who recently headed up Multi-National Division-Baghdad that "it's not irreversible" and that there is still work to be done.
The division's commanding general, Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, said that the troops' roar for the vice president was so loud that not only would he feel welcomed, but their brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan would be able to hear them as well.
Cheney, who had visited prior to deployment of the "First Team" in October 2006, started by saying it was an honor to be back at Fort Hood and extended President George W. Bush's respect and good wishes to his recently redeployed troops.
Sgt. Rebekah Withers said that having the vice president take the time to travel from Washington, D.C., to see Soldiers off and, now, welcome them back, shows he cares and supports what service members do for the country.
"For the younger Soldiers, I think it's pretty exciting, because how often do you see the vice president'" added the military policewoman from Lehighton, Pa.
This was Wither's first deployment but she knows how hard it is, especially for those who have been there three or four times already and have lost friends and time with their families.
"It's nice to know that the sacrifices are worth something," she added.
Cheney said that he understands the gravity of the demands placed on the Soldiers of the division now and historically.
"For many decades time and time again this country has counted on the 'First Team' to slug it out against freedom's enemies," Cheney said.
"We have managed to avoid another 9-11 not because of good luck, but because of hard work," Cheney said. "The challenges were immense but you never pulled away from the mission and you did in fact turn things around.
"Your efforts as part of the counter-insurgency ordered by the president, implemented by (Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno) helped prepare the way for the political progress we are now seeing in Baghdad."
However, the first in the line of presidential succession reminded the troops in attendance that the progress made is not irreversible and not without costs.
"We know as well you've had to face sorrow; day-to-day, minute-to-minute, you fought for the Soldiers on either side of you," he said. "When a comrade falls, it's hard to say goodbye to someone you cared about, knew by name, called a friend. You'll remember them and the United States of America will honor their service, sacrifice and memory."
Cheney said the story of this deployment is best summed up by the words of the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team's commander, Col. David W. Sutherland who said "the men and women in my formation fought day in, day out, to destroy the terrorists... they went places no man or woman should ever have to go, they saw things no man or woman should ever have to see."
"America is the kind of country that stands up to brutality, terror and injustice." Cheney said, "and you the men and women of the First Team are the kind of people we send to get the job done."
Sgt. Donald Davisrushed through the crowd following Cheney's speech to get the rare opportunity to shake his hand. "I can feel the appreciation, he understands the job we have to do and that we are in harm's way," said the transportation noncommissioned officer with Company A, 115th Brigade Support Battalion.
(Spc. Jeffrey Ledesma serves with 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs. Spc. Shejal Pulivarti also contributed to this article.)