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Myers Receives 'Kansan of the Year' Award

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2005 – The values of the heartland are the same as those of the U.S. military and went a long way toward keeping the nation's highest-ranking military officer in the Air Force.

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Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts talk before a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on April 19. Myers was presented the "Kansan of the Year" Award by the Kansas Society of Washington, D.C. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers was named the "Kansan of the Year" by the Kansas Society of Washington, D.C., April 19. He follows in the steps of such distinguished Kansans as Sen. Robert Dole, Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer George Brett, Washington Redskins running back John Riggins, and TV broadcaster Jim Lehrer.

Most of the Kansas congressional delegation attended the event.

The chairman was visibly happy to be among Kansans, and the ones in the crowd were notably pleased to honor the chairman and his family.

From the Kansas sunflower centerpieces on the table to the country band doing the entertaining, the night was a celebration of all things Kansas. "It's fun to come to an oasis of Kansans in the middle of Washington, D.C.," Myers said. "I think being a Kansan is a special thing. It's certainly special to me. It's part of the heritage that I'm proudest of."

The chairman said that, counting ROTC time, he has spent 44 years in uniform. "One of the reasons I stayed in the service so long was the military culture," he said.

He said the military runs on values like integrity, loyalty and selflessness. Personnel from all regions of the United States bring a "wonderful varied background of cultures" to the military. "To my mind, when you come from the heartland, you bring a real common-sense approach to problems, because you have to be practical to survive on the prairie," he said. "We inherited that from the folks who went before us."

Myers told the crowd that he hadn't planned on making the Air Force a career. He was going to fulfill his commitment and get out, "probably (to go) back to the family business in Kansas City," he said.

But the military personnel he served with kept him energized and motivated to serve. "All of us from the prairie were born to take responsibility and, if needed, to lead," he said. "Leadership is what makes anything strong, be it a business or a country. This is a time when we need all the leaders we can get. Never have we been confronted by a greater peril than the threat posed by terrorism."

Myers addressed a purely Kansas rivalry also. The chairman, a 1965 graduate of Kansas State University, poked fun at graduates of rival Kansas University. He said he was the "black sheep of the family" because everyone else in his family went to KU.

During the reception period before the dinner, the chairman and his family met with members of the society. The Kansans did their best to dispel outsiders' preconceptions about the state.

First, they said, the line from the musical "South Pacific" that goes, "I'm as corny as Kansas in August," is wrong. Kansas is covered in wheat, not corn. And if Dorothy were really singing about going over the rainbow, she would want to go to Wichita, not Oz.

The chairman thanked the society. "I appreciate the honor of this award," he said. "I'm very proud to be from Kansas. Most of all I'm proud to wear this uniform and serve alongside a whole bunch of really great servicemen and women.

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Biographies:
Gen. Richard B. Myers

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is saluted by Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, a former Marine, after the senator introduced the general at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on April 19. Myers was presented the "Kansan of the Year" Award by the Kansas Society of Washington, D.C. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the keynote speaker during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on April 19. Myers was presented the "Kansan of the Year" Award by the Kansas Society of Washington, D.C. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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