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Secretary of Defense's 2004 Holiday Message to the Troops

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2004 – This is the time of year when we want to give special recognition to the men and women in uniform -- volunteers all -- who defend our Nation and the cause of freedom.

But it is appropriate to go beyond a usual holiday message to put in context what is taking place at this time in our country's history. What the men and women in uniform are doing today will prove to be a pivotal chapter in the history of America's meaning and mission.

Since this great Republic's founding, Americans have stood at liberty's front lines. In its earliest days, the United States was the world's only democratic nation. But as the centuries have passed, the audacious and powerful ideals of freedom and self-determination that defined the American experiment have swept across the world.

We have seen it in recent times, in nearly every region of the world:

  • in the joy of reunited Germans dancing atop the crumbling Berlin Wall;
  • in the face of the lone young man who stood defiantly before the line of tanks in Tiananmen Square;
  • in the millions of Afghan women who braved violence and intimidation to cast their votes in Afghanistan's first-ever democratic presidential election;
  • in today's passionate debate over free and fair elections in Ukraine; and
  • in the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have volunteered to come to their newly liberated nation's defense.

These momentous events would not have been likely had it not been for the daring and determination of America's founders, and for each of the many generations of Americans that followed who kept the flame of liberty alive at home and nurtured it abroad. This is the meaning and mission of America and no one is more important to that mission than the American soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine.

In these difficult and trying times, I ask our men and women in uniform to remember this: There is perhaps no greater calling in life than what you are doing -- standing on freedom's front lines. And there could be no finer legacy to bestow to future generations than being part of our nation's forward strategy for freedom and contributing to a safer and more peaceful world.

So to all of you who are serving our nation -- I thank you for your courage. I thank you for your commitment. And to your families and loved ones, I extend my deepest appreciation for your sacrifices. And to all of those who have lost loved ones in this global struggle against extremism, and to all of those recovering from the wounds of battle, know that all who have served our country have been part of something that history and future generations of Americans will honor for decades to come.

Please also know I am deeply grateful to you and that you have my full respect. You have my very best wishes for the holiday season.

Donald H. Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense

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