Rumsfeld Thanks Troops, Likens Them to American Western Legend
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT CARSON, Colo., Oct. 7, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld thanked troops here today for following in the footsteps of Christopher "Kit" Carson, the celebrated hero of the American West for whom this post is named.
Rumsfeld told a group of representatives of the 7th Infantry Division, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade, 43rd Area Support Group and 10th Special Forces Group and their families that they exhibit the same "bold, courageous and innovative" traits of Carson.
"In the global war on terror, U.S. forces, including thousands from this base, have lived up to the legend of Kit Carson," Rumsfeld said, "fighting terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan, hunting the remnants of the deadly regime in Iraq, working with local populations to help secure victory.
"And every one of you is, like Kit Carson, a volunteer," Rumsfeld said.
"Few men have been chosen by destiny to serve their country as Kit Carson served, and fewer still have risen to the challenge," Rumsfeld told the group. "Each of you has been chosen by destiny to serve in this unique time in the history of our country. It's a time of change, a time of challenge, and you have risen to that challenge and have made America proud."
Rumsfeld told the troops he had just visited with Fort Carson soldiers being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for injuries they received in Southwest Asia. During that visit, he said, he was particularly impressed by their desire to get well so they could rejoin their units in fighting the war on terror.
"Their spirits are high, they are proud of what they have done, and they feel fortunate to be Americans," he told the group. "Like their comrades, their spirits are good because they know they are part of something important to our country, to Iraq to be sure, but important to the entire region of the world in the global war on terror."
Rumsfeld praised the accomplishments U.S. and coalition forces are making in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that they have defeated two terrorist regimes and freed some 46 million people from oppression. Now, he said, these troops are "working to lay the foundations of freedom and build the pillars upon which liberty and democracy will rest."
It's important work, "not just for us, but for the world," he told the group, "and we are grateful for your service."
Rumsfeld acknowledged that this service has not been without sacrifice. Nineteen Fort Carson soldiers have died in Iraq.
"To all of you, and to the spouses and children of those who were lost, here today, I offer profound thanks of a nation and indeed the thanks of the Afghan and Iraqi people," Rumsfeld said. "And I make you this promise: we will not forget."
Rumsfeld noted that during the past two years in the war on terror, "America's forces have been tested again and again. In every mission, they have brought credit to their uniforms, our flag and to our country.
"Wherever and whenever we have needed you, as the president has said, you have never let us down, and I thank you for that. And I thank your families as well because they also sacrifice."
After speaking to the troops, Rumsfeld lingered to shake hands, pose for pictures, and sign thank-you notes to be mailed to deployed spouses.
Maj. Gen. Robert Wilson, commander of Fort Carson and the 7th Infantry Division, said Rumsfeld motivated the troops and showed he cares deeply about them.
"When someone of the stature of the secretary of defense comes to personally thank the soldiers for what they are doing, that really gives them courage and strength," he said. "It's really good for the soldiers."
"He helped motivate us," agreed Spc. Richard McAuliffe from the 59th Quartermaster Company. "He pumped a lot of us up."
Sgt. Omar Boynes from the 329th Field Artillery said he was impressed by Rumsfeld's responses to a wide range of questions asked during a question-and-answer period that covered everything from troop pay and benefits to day care fees to media coverage of the war in Iraq.
"He gave me confidence in him," said Boynes "And that, in turn, gives me more confidence in my ability to do my job."