JCS Chairman: U.S. Troops Fight for American Ideas, Ideals
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
HONOLULU, Aug. 24, 2005 Like the patriots of the Revolutionary War, Americans must realize that the "ideas and ... ideals in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are just words on paper unless men and women are willing to risk their lives to preserve them and to fight for them," the nation's highest ranking military leader said here Aug. 23.
Speaking at the National Convention of the American Legion, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Americans must hold on to their resolve to win the war against terror.
Myers, who received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal, is in the midst of a 10-day trip to visit with troops around the world. He and a United Service Organizations troupe of entertainers met soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at two shows Aug. 22 at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and the Army's Schofield Barracks, home of the 25th Infantry Division.
Myers and sports personality and cover girl Leeann Tweeden, NFL Hall of Fame member Gale Sayers, and comedians Jeffrey Ross and Colin Quinn have already visited Germany, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, the USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf, Korea and Japan.
Myers told of a presentation he and his staff received from historian David McCullough following publication of his novel, "1776."
Myers said 1776 was a crucial year to freedom. Making a country that can live up to the Declaration of Independence is tough, Myers said, noting that George Washington was a powerful leader partly because he understood what was at stake. "He told his men that they weren't fighting for glory and they weren't fighting for territory, but the defense 'of all that is dear and valuable in life,'" Myers said.
The year of independence was difficult for Washington and his men. Loyalists actually outnumbered those favoring independence. The Army itself was small and ill-equipped. At one point, the Revolutionary Army only had 3,000 troops, the chairman said.
"They were freezing. They were hungry. They didn't have adequate uniforms, boots or weapons," he said. "But Washington told them to never lose sight of what he called 'the goodness of their cause.' And they didn't, and they prevailed."
The United States and the world "would be a very much different placed if these troops and General Washington had lost their resolve," Myers said.
The nation has always asked a lot of servicemembers, Myers said. From the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution to the North Vietnamese siege of Khe Sanh, "our troops always deliver," he said. "For this current generation it is places with names like Mazar-e Sharif (Afghanistan) and Fallujah (Iraq). And the current generation has sacrificed so much defending what is indeed good and valuable in life."
Myers said that troops serving in battle areas understand they are involved in a noble cause and have "the most fantastic attitude."
"They understand perfectly why we've asked them to do what they are doing," he said. "These folks are motivated by the right things: patriotism, selflessness and a burning desire to make a difference."
Myers told the Legionnaires the war against terror "threatens the very freedoms that our troops fought for ... in 1776."
He said success in the war is tough to define or measure. "But one thing is vital: It's vital for America to stay resolved, to stay committed and to be patient," the chairman said. "Resolve -- or will -- is ultimately what will decide whether we defeat violent extremism or terrorism or whether we give in to them."
Myers thanked the Legion for being in the forefront of support for the troops. "I remember coming home from Vietnam ... and being advised when I got to Travis Air Force Base (Calif.) to change into civilian clothes before we went to the civilian airport to continue our journey home," he said. "Thirty years later, things are a little bit different."
He spoke of an Anheuser-Busch-sponsored commercial in the Super Bowl that showcased American support for the military. "It showed a terminal, and it had several dozen troops coming in their desert uniforms," Myers said. "And the folks waiting in the terminal spontaneously stood up and gave them a standing ovation."
The chairman said he is sure Korean and Vietnam War veterans contribute to U.S. troops getting the kind of support they deserve. "You made up your minds that they would be treated the way you should have been treated," he said. "And so, four years into this war against terrorism, ... I'm encouraged that the country's support is still very, very strong."
Myers said he is getting nostalgic as he has less than 40 days remaining of a 40-year career.
He said people constantly ask him what he is proudest of. He tells them that he is proudest of what servicemembers have accomplished over the past four years, "answering the nation's call one more time, to make the world better and the future more hopeful for millions and millions of people."
People sometimes take for granted what the military has been able to do around the world, Myers said. "The fact is, this required much selflessness, much sacrifice," he said. "Many have been injured, and some have made and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"But the people in Afghanistan and Iraq are voting. They are determining how they want to be governed for the first time. They are living free from fear and telling their children that there's hope for the future," the general said. "And it is all because American servicemen and women continue to fight for what is valuable in life.
"I can confidently tell you that the legacy that our troops had in 1776, the legacy that you set, my legacy, our legacy is in very good hands."