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Vice Chairman Brings Message of Thanks to Deployed Troops

By Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Nov. 29, 2004 – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited servicemembers in Afghanistan Nov. 22, passing on an important message of gratitude from people in the United States.

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace presents a coin of excellence to a Marine from 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines during a dinner at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Nov. 22. Photo by Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA

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"Thank you for what you are doing," said Marine Gen. Peter Pace. "People always come up to me and thank me for what I do, and I reply, 'It's not me; it's the troops in the field.'"

After meeting with troops at Kandahar Airfield, Pace flew here, where he joined a group of Combined Joint Task Force 76 servicemembers for dinner, fielding questions from the deployed troops about everything from the global war on terrorism to his day-to-day responsibilities.

"Ask me anything and I'll give you an answer. If I don't have the answer, I'll make something up," he said with a laugh, encouraging the troops to present their thoughts and questions.

One Marine sergeant looked to Pace for advice in talking to loved ones back home. The Marine said he has found it challenging to communicate effectively with his family while maintaining operational security.

"Tell them about your experiences over here," replied the 37-year veteran. "It's those experiences that are going to help them understand why you're here and what you're doing."

Pace explained to the servicemembers the importance of their mission in Afghanistan and congratulated them on a job well done. "All our fighting forces should collectively feel good about what's been accomplished," he said. "Your sacrifice is making a difference. I've seen a remarkable change in Afghanistan in the past year. Here, the election has been a huge turning point."

Now that the presidential election is completed, the focus in Afghanistan is on reconstruction and, in the spring, parliamentary elections.

Thanks to the progress that has taken place, the Afghan people were able to celebrate the observance of Ramadan without incident -- a point Pace believes servicemembers can keep in mind during their own holiday season to help them stay focused and motivated. "Holidays are traditionally a time for renewing friendships," he said. "The sacrifice our servicemembers are making during our holiday season made it possible for the Afghan people to celebrate their holiday peacefully for the first time ever."

With that in mind, Pace thanked the families and troops for the sacrifices that come with serving the nation. "The sacrifices of the families are at least equal to those of the servicemembers," he said. "We owe a great debt to them."

That debt can never be repaid, and the sacrifice can never be recovered, said Pace. There's no monetary equivalent that could ever account for the things lost during combat, but the gratitude of others goes a long way, especially during the holidays.

"We are all proud of our troops," said Pace. "The vast majority of our fellow Americans understand and appreciate the sacrifice. On behalf of myself and everyone back home, thank you all for what you do."

(Army Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Gen. Peter Pace praises soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment for their efforts in Operation Enduring Freedom, during a visit to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 22. Photo by Spc. Claudia Bullard, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJoint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace speaks to enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coalition members during dinner Nov. 21 at the Kabul Compound, Afghanistan. The general visited numerous places on the compound during his two-day visit. Photo by Senior Airman Catharine Schmidt, USAF  
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