Cohen Kicks Off Armed Forces Day Weekend
By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., May. 14, 1999 "Ours is the greatest fighting force in the world because of our technology, training, doctrine and tactics, but most of all because of the people who serve us in uniform," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said May 14 at the 1999 DoD Joint Service Open House held here in observance of Armed Forces Day weekend.
The 41st annual event May 14-16 showcased the people, equipment and technology of today's U.S. armed services. Active and reserve soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen demonstrated how they work together. Cohen's special guests, former Sen. Bob Dole and Washington Redskin's coach Norv Turner, were on hand as the secretary spoke to several hundred guests and service members at opening ceremonies May 14.
"This is a celebration and demonstration of our men and women in uniform," Cohen said. "We see our proud past in the veterans and the vintage aircraft gathered here today. We are looking at the present in the stunning capabilities on static display on this runway, the men and women joining us today in uniform from every service. Army soldiers and paratroopers, the Golden Knights, Air Force aviators and air crews, Navy sailors and pilots, Marine fliers and riflemen, Coast Guard crews and pilots -- this is your day."
Cohen praised the service and sacrifices of service members stationed around the world and added that keeping the "best and bravest" means "taking care of those who take care of America."
"Those of you in uniform deserve a quality of life and benefits that measure up to the job that you do and the burdens that you carry -- you and your families," he said. Cohen pointed out that Congress is supporting the largest pay raise in a generation and working on other improvements in military benefits and quality of life.
"This is not only a military necessity, it's a moral imperative," Cohen said. "We must and we will protect and defend those of you who are protecting and defending America.
"This is a day of heartfelt celebration of your devotion to America and appreciation of the service you give and the sacrifice you make," Cohen continued. "You are the guardians of our heritage, our freedom and America is eternally grateful for the blessings of freedom that you make possible."
This year's featured aerial demonstrations included the U.S. Army premier parachute team, the Golden Knights, and a mass troop drop of 320 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
One of the Pentagon's top leaders and two celebrity entertainers joined the Golden Knights' morning jump. Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Australia's Sherrie Austin, a rising country singing star, and Nicholas Lea, who plays Alex Krycek on "The X- Files," donned chutes for the aerial demonstration. Austin and Lea were paired with Army paratroopers to jump tandem.
Other demonstrations showcased the Navy's F-18 Hornet, the Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt, known as the "Warthog," the Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II, the Navy's P-3 Orion antisubmarine aircraft and the Air Force F-15 Eagle.