Hamre Will Miss Serving America
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
FORT MYER, Va., Mar. 31, 2000 Outgoing Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre said he will always miss the privilege of serving America, but he won’t miss the demands of the office.
Hamre, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Hugh Shelton spoke at a full-honors review for Hamre here March 30. His last day in office was March 31. Julie Hamre watched as ceremonial units from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard saluted her husband’s seven years of service first as DoD’s comptroller then deputy.
At the ceremony, Cohen awarded Hamre the DoD Medal for Distinguished Public Service, DoD's highest award for a non-career civilian. Hamre also presented his wife with 25 roses, one for each year of their marriage, he said, and gave his staff credit for thinking of the gesture.
“I wasn’t smart enough to have ordered flowers for Julie. That’s why I have this remarkable staff,” he said. “She knows I’m such a dunderhead I wouldn’t have thought about that. Let me say thank you to all the people that have saved me every day I’ve been in this job.”
Rudy deLeon, previously undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, was sworn into office March 31. Hamre leaves to become president and chief executive officer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Speaking first, Shelton took the opportunity to thank Hamre for his service. “On behalf of the men and women in uniform, thank you for helping to lead the department during what has been and will undoubtedly be remembered as a time of immense change,” he said. “We want you to know that your vision, your dedication and your self-sacrifice have been inspirational and will truly benefit our nation both now and far into the future.”
Cohen also praised Hamre. “The hand of providence … raised John Hamre to this high office,” Cohen said, calling Hamre a “visionary strategist” and a “pragmatic tactician.”
“The man that America honors today has honored America and those who protect her every day of his life,” Cohen said, speaking of Hamre’s always-evident regard for the men and women of the Department of Defense.
Hamre’s farewell speech spoke largely to his love of country. “On almost every day since I became deputy secretary, some event or development has caused me to pause and marvel at the transforming power of the American experiment,” he said. “What propels America to send its finest young men and women off to distant lands to a cause that most other countries would choose to ignore?
“What moves America to mount a relief effort for millions of refugees continents away who are flooded from their homes? What motivates a country to send its warriors to patrol a demilitarized zone in Korea to stand against an irrational tyranny? What is it in the American spirit that covets no foreign soil except that which is required to bury its fallen heroes?”
The guest of honor then went on to answer his own questions. “I believe that we do these things because of our destiny,” he said. “America is propelled to act because it has placed at its civic heart an agenda of liberty and justice, equality and opportunity.”
Hamre called America a “country worth defending,” because its ideals are worth fighting for. “No one could possibly serve as deputy secretary of defense without coming to understand for the very first time the meaning of the phrase, ‘God bless America,’” he said, fighting back tears.
He closed his speech by wishing his successor, deLeon, well. “I ask that you pray for him and support him with all your heart on this very rich adventure of service,” Hamre said.