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Dempsey Reminds Americans to Remember Meaning of Memorial Day

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2012 – In a round of Memorial Day television interviews today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged Americans to reflect on the meaning of this national holiday, a message underscored by the on-going mission in Afghanistan as well as fresh reminders of the military’s obligation to be ready to respond if called upon.

“I would ask people to take a solemn moment at some point during the day to remember exactly what we are celebrating and that is we’re celebrating our freedom -- the freedom that was purchased by more than 2 million men and women throughout the course of our history and, of course, more than 6,400 or so in the past 10 years alone," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told NBC's "Today" show in an appearance from the Pentagon.

On multiple morning news programs, questioning quickly turned to the war in Afghanistan, with Dempsey saying he defines progress there as having Afghans able to provide for their own security and governance.

“Success in Afghanistan will be when the Afghan Security Forces are capable of maintaining stability inside their own country and the central government of Afghanistan is able to provide governance. I think that has always been the definition of success both in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he told CNN’s “Starting Point” program. “I think we are moving positively toward those objectives.”

Dempsey dismissed concerns about a possible resurgence of the Taliban, which Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called ‘resilient’ on ABC’s “This Week” program yesterday.  

“I will say the Strategic Partnership Agreement that we entered with Afghanistan should give pause to the Taliban that they simply cannot wait us out,” he said on CNN. That agreement, signed by President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul May 2, establishes the basis for cooperation between both countries over the next decade, after the end of the NATO mission. The agreement includes cooperation on counterterrorism and the continued training of the Afghan National Security Forces. 

Dempsey’s interviews coincided with reports of a massacre of more than 100 civilians in Syria, in apparent violation of a ceasefire between the government of President Bashar al-Asad and his opponents. On “Fox and Friends,” the general called reports of the deaths “atrocious,” and would not rule out a possible military option if such atrocities continue. 

“My job as senior military leader is to provide the president options when a political decision is taken, … and I frankly believe the pressure has to be mounting on Asad and should continue to mount on Asad, and, if asked for those options at some point, I’ll be prepared to provide them,” he said.    

But Dempsey’s central message, as he told CNN, was the day itself, and he continued to return to what it means, including the daily reminder he receives of the nation’s sacrifice every morning as he arrives at the Pentagon.      

“I drive to work every day past Arlington Cemetery, and there are 260,000 small American flags planted at each of these gravesites, so I just want to make sure that they know that we will never forget.”

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Biographies:
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
Special Report: Memorial Day 2012
Photo Essay: Obama, Panetta Attend Memorial Day Observance Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery



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