Pentagon Police Officers Honored for Years Of Service
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 23, 2004 "I won't miss the building, the walls, the floors, etc., but I will miss the people who I have worked with and served," said Eugene Steele, a Pentagon police officer who along with several of his colleagues, was honored today.
Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace
congratulates Bernard Carter for his service on the Pentagon Police Force.
Bernard was one of several former officers honored during a Pentagon event July
23. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During an informal ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, 24 Pentagon police officers, each with more than 25 years of experience, were recognized for their service. All recently retired from the force.
Guest speaker Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, knew most of the officers by name. He said he was delighted for the opportunity to personally thank them for their service.
Pace pointed out that many of the officers greeted him as he entered the building for work each day. He said jokingly that he knew the others "were watching me on camera, so hopefully I haven't done anything really dumb."
Nevertheless, the general added that he, like others who work in the Pentagon, have great admiration for those who protect them.
"Those of us who are protected need to pay special respect to those of you who are willing to sacrifice yourself and your life to protect all of the rest of us who come to work in this building," he told the group. "I cannot say thank you enough for them."
The general said the ceremony gave him the opportunity to say thanks "to some really great individuals, 25-plus years each, in service to our country and in this building protecting and serving."
"And I think since Sept. 11 that concept of 'serve and protect' has taken on a vastly new appreciation," he said.
Many officers at today's ceremony were on duty during 9/11 and understood the vice chairman's words. Steele said the officers did "what they were trained to do. We had to stand tall."
"We remained calm, collected and professional," he recalled about the day of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in 2001. "At that time it was something we had never experienced and we had to be pros, we had to be calm, able to follow instructions and give instruction to people going in and out of the building."
Added retiree Charles Kelley, "We worked long hours, we had no days offs and it was truly quite an experience for us."
For retiree Wayne Gooden, a 33-year employee, the 9/11 experience was quite different.
He had just returned to work from vacation, and said he was "five minutes walking distance" from the site when the plane hit. Gooden was to have breakfast at the Redskin's snack bar that morning. It was an area that received heavy smoke damage from the crash.
"For some reason that morning I didn't have breakfast," he said. "I thank God today for protecting me."
And protecting those who work at the Pentagon is what the officers will miss most. It was the part of the job they said they most appreciated.
Steele, who spent 22 years in the Army, plans to relax, teach golf and make golf clubs. But after years of working the corridors of the Joints Chief of Staff, he said he will miss the people that he served.
He recalls working with the Joint Chiefs staff during the Sept. 11 timeframe as the most exciting and memorable time of his career. "Those people behind those doors are true professionals," he said. "And I enjoyed working with those professionals."
Gooden too will miss the Pentagon staff, although he added that this is the time for him "to go and enjoy my life."
"I'm going to miss it, but I still have a lot of friends here," he said.
Working parking control at the Pentagon River and Mall Plaza entrances, Gooden can count the dignitaries among those he has met. And he said he is a close friend with the wives and families of several DoD leaders.
Gooden said he was really touched when after he was seriously injured in a car accident March 28, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld telephoned him personally at home.
And Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, along with the other service chiefs, sent him autographed cards and letters.
Meanwhile, Kelley, who retired after 47 years of civil service, said he never "had a bad experience on this job."
"I've had good experiences with all people," he explained. "I've found that government people by and large are good-hearted people and they are great to work with."