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Armed Forces Day
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Friday, May 14, 2004

WOLFOWITZ:  Thank you, General Myers, for that very kind introduction. 


I must say, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of humility when you meet with our fantastic troops and especially when you meet with those brave men and women in Walter Reed and Bethesda who’ve given so much for this country.  There’s no way to say “thank you” enough. 


And I’d also like to join General Myers in saying what an impressive honor guard we have out here today.  You’re fine representatives of a fine military. 


Excellencies, distinguished ambassadors, Secretary [of Transportation, Norman] Mineta and Mrs. Mineta, Members of Congress, our Service Secretaries -- Les Brown and Gordon England, Jim Roche, Diane Roche, good to have you with us on this beautiful day -- members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  senior enlisted representatives, men and women of the Armed Forces here today or watching on our new Pentagon Channel, and most of all, our brave men and women serving on the front lines of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world, ladies and gentlemen. 


On behalf of all of us in the Department of Defense, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to the 54th annual celebration of Armed Forces Day.  It is an occasion for honoring heroes, the Service members who fight our battles and keep watch on the ramparts of freedom.  That includes those heroes here with us today from Walter Reed and Bethesda.  Their service in the cause of freedom is an inspiration to all Americans and to freedom-loving people all over the world. 


The great chronicler of World War II, Herman Wouk, had a good sense of what makes a hero.  “Heroes,” he said, “are not super men.  They are good men [who] embody by the cast of destiny, the virtue of a whole people in a great hour.”


  Throughout our history, the United States has had more than one such hour -- from the battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, right up to the present.  And each time, heroes have led the way. 


We saw them in World War I at Belleau Wood and the Argonne Forest.  In World War II, breaching the walls of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe,” and fighting their way across the Pacific.  They fought in Korea, in Vietnam, in Bosnia and Somalia.  They braved the mountains of Afghanistan and, twice, the deserts of Iraq.  Whenever America’s freedom was threatened, they have risen to the challenge.  And today is no different. 


Last fall, General Jack Keane retired after 37 distinguished years in the United States Army.  He took that occasion to say something about our enemies in this war on terror, and his words bear repeating. 


Those enemies, General Keane said, “think they know us because they’ve heard of Lebanon in ‘83, of Somalia in ‘94 or the USS Cole in 2000.  They think we are morally weak and we will lose our resolve.  But their knowledge is superficial and their understanding is shallow.  


“To understand America and Americans,” General Keane continued, “they need to understand The Marne in 1918, or Tarawa in ’43, Omaha Beach in ’44 or the Chosin Reservoir in 1950.  They need to understand that a nation that produces Alvin Yorke and Audie Murphy; John Pershing and George Marshall; Chesty Puller and George Patton; Randy Shugart and Gary Gordon; produces heroes in every generation.  They are out there now … performing every day.” 


Indeed, they are.  Ours will be remembered as a time when a new generation of Americans answered history’s call – with courage and determination equal to their forefathers’. 


Indeed, no military in history has fought so often for the freedom of others, and you are doing so again today.  You do so in order to protect our freedom and our security, because this country is safer and more secure when others are free.  Americans are human, and we make mistakes.  But when we do, we work to correct them.  And it was not a mistake to free the Iraqi people and the world from one of the most abusive dictators in history.  [Applause.]


Thanks to you, two regimes that supported terrorism have been overthrown and millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq have been liberated from oppression.  They have discovered that real liberty does exist, that they can throw off their tyrants and learn freedom and cease learning war, and that there is a shining future and it is up to them to grasp it. 


At the beginning of our present struggle -- which began when we were attacked on a September morning more than two-and-a-half years ago -- President Bush spoke for all Americans when he said, “We will not tire, we will not waiver, we will not falter, and we will not fail.” 


We have not, and we will not.  Our heroes will see to it.


Actually, they’re not supermen, but one cannot help but stand in awe of their selflessness and their courage and their basic human decency.  They are good and honorable men and women, who embody the strengths of a good and decent people.  And so, this is an occasion for us to say “thank you” -- for all that you are, for all that you do, and to thank your families for their contribution to our country.  Without their service, your service would not be possible.  Without the sacrifices your families make, our country would not be safe.  And we are deeply grateful to them, as well. 


With that…[Applause.] … with that, may I ask for God’s blessing on each and every one of you and may God continue to bless this great country.  Enjoy this beautiful day.  Thank you.  [Applause.]