United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Release

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

News Release


Release No: 297-96
May 21, 1996

Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry - Memorial Services for Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda

National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
May 21, 1996

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord." [107th Psalm]

Today we mourn the loss of an American who loved to go down to the sea in ships, who did business in great waters in the service of peace and freedom, and who will see the works of the Lord. His name was Admiral Jeremy Boorda, Mike to all who knew him.

It has been said several times today, but is worth saying again, that Mike was a sailor's sailor. The first seaman recruit to become the Chief of Naval Operations. A Navy man who at every stage of his career put the interest of sailors and their families first. A Navy leader who helped make America's Navy the best that the world has ever seen. And a family man who deeply loved his wife Bettie and their children.

As Secretary of Defense I relied on Mike's advice. Indeed we first met during a security crisis when the Bosnian Serbs began shelling Sarajevo in defiance of a NATO ultimatum. As we weighed the allied response, Mike's advice -- respond with force -- carried the day. And it was Mike's combat leadership that directed the air strikes that stopped the killing and started Bosnia on the path to peace.

Under his wise stewardship of the Navy, Mike carried on the legacy of his predecessor and role model, the late Admiral Arleigh Burke. Like any great leader Mike's heart was with his people. He was a seaman who became an admiral, but an admiral who never forgot his seamen, and nobody -- nobody -- had more pride in his sailors.

The hallmark of Mike's remarkable Navy career was a heartfelt recognition that no ship, no battle group, is better than the people who sail it. He knew we could not send our ships on extended overseas deployments without also having sophisticated and well-trained people with good morale. It is a tribute to Mike's leadership that our Navy today has such people. Their dedication and pride never fail to impress me everywhere that I meet them -- on bases in the United States, on bases overseas, and on ships at sea.

Shortly after Mike had arranged to open up assignments for women to serve on combat vessels, he arranged for me to go to the USS EISENHOWER, and meet and talk with some of the men and women who are manning that ship.

One senior petty officer that I met had volunteered to delay her retirement for the chance to be among the first women to deploy on a combat ship. When I met with her, I asked her why she had extended. She told me that her 20 years in the Navy she had always been assigned to shore duty or with supply ships. And she wanted to have least one tour on a Navy warship because she wanted to be able to tell her grandchildren that she had been a real sailor. That's what our Navy consists of today -- real sailors -- and this is the Navy that Mike built.

Last month, in his annual State of Navy Address, Mike Boorda talked about some of the difficult challenges facing the modern Navy. But he concluded by saying, Do we have the best Navy in the world? You can count on it! And under Mike's leadership, I did count on it.

I'd like to close my remarks by expressing a hope and prayer, for his family, and for Mike's colleagues in the Navy. To his colleagues, my hope and prayer is that you will work to preserve his memory, to pursue his legacy and to persevere in the quest to sustain and strengthen the Navy Mike loved. To his family, my hope is that your pain will be relieved by the grace of God. This wish was expressed beautifully more than 2,000 years ago by the Greek poet Aeschylus, who wrote: "In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."


Additional Links

Stay Connected