Casey Welcomes Millionth R&R Service Member
By Army Lt. Col. Deanna Bague
Fort Bliss, Texas
DALLAS, Jan. 12, 2011 Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. joined several hundred supporters at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport yesterday to welcome the flight carrying the millionth service member to come home from the combat theater for rest and recuperation leave.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, greets soldiers arriving at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport at the start of their rest and recuperation leave, Jan. 11, 2010. The flight represented the one-million-servicemember milestone for the “R&R” leave program. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Deanna Bague
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“It’s wonderful to be here and to participate in this ceremony today, but most importantly, to say thank you to all of you who make this possible,” Casey said.
Casey noted that Vietnam veterans among the supporters who joined him in greeting the flight didn’t receive a similar welcome when they came home. “It has become such a big part of our ability to sustain this all-volunteer force, which is now in its tenth year of war,” he added.
A fanfare led by Tuskegee Airmen and Vietnam veterans was a major part of the celebration, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Liuva Ruiz, who helps to process thousands of service members at the airport’s assistance point. Dallas is by far one of the most supportive cities for service members, she added.
“I’ve seen them purchase lunches for soldiers in the airport –- just complete strangers [who want] to show their support for those service members,” she said.
Casey, whose son recently earned “R&R” leave, said he understands the uplift service members experience when someone acknowledges their service, even with just a quick word or two.
“What a difference it makes to have a soldier get off the plane and to have people there to say, ‘Welcome home,’” he said. For people to approach service members to express their gratitude, pick up the tab for a breakfast or give up a seat on an airplane is notably important, the general said.
“The message that communicates to our soldiers and to their families is that their sacrifices are both recognized and appreciated by the people of America,” he said.
Army Spc. Dale Newcomb of 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was departing to a combat zone the day before the celebration. He had just completed a second R&R leave, and he said the people at the airports made him feel very welcomed.
“It’s a very warm and welcoming environment to come back to,” he said. “This environment kind of drives you on –- like, ‘I can pull through this, I’m doing something good.’”
Newcomb said he believes that if he had not heard words of encouragement on his returns to the United States he may not be able to continue to serve.
“I couldn’t do it without this environment,” he said. “Everybody has their reasons for joining –- I don’t care what your reason is -– just having to know someone appreciates what you’re doing means a lot.”
Casey said everyone who takes time to recognize soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines day after day makes a significant impact on America’s defense.
“We could not do what we have done as an Army and what we have done as an armed forces to protect this country over the last 10 years if it were not for that,” he said.