Pace Honors Families Who Lost Loved Ones
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CHICAGO, Sept. 19, 2007 Marine Gen. Peter Pace honored families who have lost military family members during Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation's third annual dinner here yesterday evening.
Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been a member of the board of the charitable organization for many years. He said he was “overwhelmed, humbled and uncomfortable” after the foundation surprised him with honors during the dinner.
Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway and retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr., a former Marine Corps commandant and former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, praised Pace during the event. Pace thanked his friends and the other members of the group, but got right back to the point of the dinner.
“Tonight is about families who have lost loved ones,” he said. “As much as I appreciate the incredible words from my good friend Jim Jones and my good friend Jim Conway, to the extent that it takes the focus off these families who need our help, I feel guilty.”
The group was founded on the premise that Americans owe a debt to those who die to protect them. The foundation provides $35,000 scholarship bonds to the children of Marines, Navy corpsmen, Navy SEALs, and federal law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. To date, the group has distributed $35 million to those children since it was founded in 1995. Last night's event raised $1.2 million for the fund.
Marines fight to uphold the legacy of those who came before them, the general said. Marines revere those who fought at Belleau Wood in World War I and at Iwo Jima in the Second World War. Future generations will feel the same way about the Marines who fought in Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq, he said.
“It is not because Marines are fearless,” Pace said. “You show me a Marine who knows no fear, and I will show you a Marine I don’t want to be anywhere near. Marines do know fear in combat. But what makes Marines get up and do their job is a greater fear that somehow those of us who have the privilege of serving our corps and country that our actions will not measure up to those who have gone before, that somehow the legacy might stop because we didn’t do what Marines always do, that somehow we will let down the Marine on our left and on our right. And it is the fear of letting down our fellow Marines and our corps that drives us forward.”
Pace said three things help Marines as they confront combat: Navy corpsmen, Navy chaplains and “the absolute certainty that if we fall in combat our families will be taken care of.”
“That is what this night is all about,” he said. “It is not about these incredible gifts; it is not about the incredible words said about me. It’s about these incredible Americans who have sacrificed their lives that we can do this in Chicago any damn time we feel like it.”
Pace, whose wife, Lynne, accompanied him to the dinner, admitted he is sad about leaving active duty at the end of the month. “I’m not sad about putting down my pack,” he said. “I’m sad because I will not be able to walk out to the battlefields and hug Marines. I’m sad because I will not be able to be with them and tell them face to face wearing the same uniform that they are wearing that I love them.”
The general said he intends to remain involved in the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation and vowed “to do all I can for this support group for the Marines and sailors … for as long as God gives me the ability to draw breath and contribute.”
Pace met with a number of wounded warriors before and after the dinner. Following the dinner he presented Marine NCO swords to Lance Cpl. Kenneth Carleton-Smith and Sgt. Christopher Marron. Both men were wounded in Iraq and medically retired. He also presented a Navy cutlass to Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Robbins, assigned to SEAL Team 5 in San Diego.