Former Award Recipient Passes Flame to New Keeper
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2004 Described as a man of integrity and consistency, Marine Gen. Peter Pace is known for taking the tough assignments and putting duty before self. Fellow Marine Gen. James L. Jones said Pace hasn't changed much since the two met in 1970.
"Not only does he look the same, he is the same," Jones, supreme allied commander, Europe, and commander of U.S. European Command, said during the 15th Keeper of the Flame award dinner here. "By that, I mean that Pete Pace approaches every day with trying to make things a little bit better for the common good."
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, was awarded the Keeper of the Flame award by the Center for Security
Police in Washington, Oct. 6. The award recognizes "those who devote their
public careers to strengthening the nation's security and the propagation of
democracy and the respect for individual rights throughout the world,"
according to the center information.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was honored as this year's recipient of the Keeper of the Flame award. The award was inaugurated in 1990 by the Center for Security Policy "to bestow recognition on those who devote their public careers to the propagation of democracy, respect for individual rights and polices of peace through American strength." Jones received the award in 1999.
"I can tell you that, in my honest opinion, one of the best decisions the secretary of defense ever made was picking General Pete Pace to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at such a critical time in our history," Jones said.
He summed up his introduction of the recipient and of the award itself. "The 'Keeper of the Flame.' It's a great title. It's a great award going to a great American," Jones said. "God bless you, Peter Pace."
Despite the kind words from his friend, Pace said the night was not about him. "It is an incredible honor to stand in front of you and represent your armed forces," he said.
He talked of servicemembers' commitment to the oath they took and of their families' sacrifices. He reflected on their dedication to the mission and praised the legacy their efforts are creating.
"They have a great pride in their heart knowing that what they are doing right now, what they have inherited from those who have gone before, and what they will pass on to their children and their grandchildren and their great- grandchildren is the service to country that allows us to have (an Election Day) where they and their fellow Americans can go to the polls and vote in a free and fair election and pick our leaders."
When the election is over, Pace said, servicemembers will have voted their conscience, something the people they're fighting for have rarely experienced.
He said servicemembers' greatest concern is whether the American people are behind them. They want to know their efforts are appreciated at home, he said.
The general lauded the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, a group of Marines and law-enforcement officers who are working to provide for the education of every child of every servicemember killed in the war on terrorism. To date the group has given more than $10 million.
"And it is that incredible generosity and caring that your soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines know and understand and feel and appreciate. And it makes a huge difference to them," Pace said.
Today the No. 2 man in the U.S. military, Pace said he learned a most valuable lesson as a second lieutenant in Vietnam: There is a fear that trumps physical harm. That is the fear of letting down fellow Marines and the legacy of the veterans who served before.
"I stand before you tonight because in 1968 and 1969, young men those men took my orders in combat and as a result, died for their country," he said, his voice thick with emotion. "I owe them a debt I can never repay."
People ask him how he does it, Pace said -- the implication being that it's a burden. "This is not a burden. This is a privilege," he said. "To serve this country -- to do it in their honor and their memory. I will accept this award tonight in their memory and in memory of all who have served this country and died, in a tribute today and tonight for the incredibly wonderful young men and women who serve our country right now."
Pace closed his acceptance speech by taking the opportunity to publicly tell the troops "we love them, we cherish them and we support them."