Defense Leaders Honor Troops’ Service, Sacrifice
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2007 This weekend Americans will celebrate the service and sacrifice of tens of millions of citizens who have donned a military uniform for their country, the top two defense leaders said in their Veterans Day messages to the troops.
“We owe each and every one of them a debt of gratitude,” said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. “Today, volunteers are once again deployed on distant battlefields against those who would terrorize and intimidate the civilized world.”
Veterans Day was originally created to commemorate the ending of World War I. “We now set aside Nov. 11 to pay tribute to Americans who have fought and sacrificed not only in that conflict, but in every other, past and present,” the secretary said.
“It is right that we set aside a day for those who have borne the burden of defending our country,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen. “It is right that we recognize their sacrifice.
“But so, too, does Veterans Day remind us of the power of service, of giving oneself over to a cause – a purpose – far greater than the individual,” Mullen said.
Gates said he takes the Defense Department’s obligation to improve the treatment and benefits of those servicemembers who have sacrificed very seriously. He said the department is making significant changes to the current system to include the revision of the disability evaluation system and the assignment of recovery coordinators to manage the care of injured troops and they integrate into civilian life.
“Those rebuilding their lives after being injured in defense of their country must have excellent care from the time they leave the theater of battle through their return to civilian life,” Gates said.
“To them, and to all American veterans, we celebrate your selflessness,” the secretary said. “We honor you for putting your lives at risk to make our nation safer and bring about a more peaceful world.”
Mullen, who recently visited servicemembers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and South Korea, said he knows troops are focused and proud of the difference they are making. “They do it not for the glory, but for each other, their families and their country,” he said.
“To all our veterans – past and present – and your families, thank you for your service,” the chairman said. “Thank you for making and keeping that promise. We are proud of you.”