Military VIPs Honor 'Unsung' Heroes
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2000 In the midst of the pomp and circumstance, the ruffles and flourishes, a simple gesture by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig showed the regard senior leaders have for members of the military team.
The Pentagon celebrated the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces Day with a full honors review here May 18. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton 'trooped the line' of service members assembled at the River Parade Field.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig retrieves a sailor's 'dixie cup' white hat which fell from a Navy flagbearer during a May 18 full honors armed forces review at the Pentagon River Parade Field celebrating the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces day. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Following relatively brief remarks by the two Pentagon leaders, the military units 'passed in review.' That's when the Navy secretary stepped out of line.
As flag-bearing service members paraded past Cohen and Shelton, the wind took a sailor's hat. Those following carefully stepped around the white 'dixie cup' where it came to rest on the green parade field.
When the marching troops cleared, Danzig briskly stepped out from the VIP section. Striding across the field, he grabbed the errant cap and turned back toward his seat. Passing Cohen and Shelton, the Navy secretary waved the dixie cup, smiled and said, "I think this is my job."
Danzig, the Navy's top civilian leader, demonstrated the credo common throughout the services, 'The military takes care of its own.' That inherent obligation is at the heart of the military's total force team. As Danzig showed, it applies to those at the top of the flagpole as well as to those who swab the decks.
What Danzig's spontaneous gesture and off-the-cuff remark expressed, Cohen and Shelton put into words. Both paid tribute to the men and women in uniform and the defense department civilians who make up the military team.
Cohen recognized 300 service members and DoD civilians in the audience chosen to represent "all those who perform extraordinary deeds on behalf of the nation."
"They do this each day with little fanfare and all too little recognition to keep this country safe and strong," Cohen said. They are the nation's "unsung heroes" because they "preserve the blessings of freedom through lives of dedication and devotion."
Cohen closed his remarks quoting World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle who wrote about average American GIs. Cohen said: "He captured the essence of our celebration with these words, 'In the end, they're the ones that wars can't be won without.'"
Shelton opened his tribute highlighting the history of Armed Forces Day. "Fifty years ago," he said, "President Truman issued a proclamation establishing Armed Forces Day to celebrate the consolidation of all military forces under a single department.
"The theme for that day in 1950 was 'Teamed for Defense,'" Shelton said. "Fifty years later, that truth rings truer than ever. Today's defense team is a dedicated and hardworking group of individuals from every service, to include the civil service."
Shelton saluted military men and women at home and overseas who provide the "grit, and the muscle, the courage and the sweat that makes our military work." He said the military team also includes "the great civilian workforce whose hard work and dedication are indispensable and contributes immeasurably to helping maintain the preeminent military force in the world today."
Just as the wind had lifted the sailor's hat, Mother Nature also had a hand in bringing the morning's military review to an unexpected and rather unceremonious close. Instead of a dozen Army Golden Knight paratroopers descending on the parade field as planned, only two reached the intended target. The others landed safely -- wherever the winds took them.
Motorists passing the Pentagon must have been surprised to see a Golden Knight and his billowing orange parachute come to rest near a nearby highway.