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Rumsfeld Lauds Vets, Praises Fallen Special Forces Soldier

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today praised the contributions of military and veterans groups nationwide.

After meeting with leaders of military and veterans service organizations, Rumsfeld turned to Pentagon reporters and noted that for "over three-quarters of a century veterans organizations have been synonymous with veterans, to be sure, but also with patriotism, with service to community, and with duty and country."

Whether from small towns or big cities, veterans' organizations "speak up for American men and women in uniform," the secretary said.

Organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, he said "remind us that America is special and that American principles are to be cherished and defended, if America is to remain free."

The experience of America's military veterans on battlefields and deployments the world over "covers much of the turmoil and the change of the 20th century," Rumsfeld said.

"Their stories are the story of our history, and we thank them and the members of their organizations," he added.

As Memorial Day approaches, Rumsfeld said it's appropriate to also honor and thank the members of the reserve components. By voluntarily putting their lives in danger to preserve peace and defend freedom, reserve component members "assume the highest responsibility of citizenship," the secretary said.

Rumsfeld then paid tribute to West Virginia National Guardsman Army Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr., 38, killed Sunday while on patrol in Afghanistan.

Vance's death "is sorely felt and mourned," Rumsfeld said of the Special Forces noncommissioned officer. "We extend our profound sympathies to his wife, Lisa, his daughter, Amber, and their entire family."

The secretary added: "We will keep them, and the families of every member of the armed forces who has fallen in the defense of freedom in our prayers this Memorial Day."

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DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld media availability with leaders of military and veterans service organizations, May 22, 2002

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