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Liberty USO's 67th Anniversary Gala (Cherry Hill, NJ)
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Friday, October 03, 2008

Good evening … Thank you … I am deeply honored by this recognition. 

Let me also congratulate the other awardees … particularly our military members … Thanks to each of you for your service and sacrifice on behalf of this great nation.

And, I am delighted to be celebrating the organization’s 67th anniversary with “Liberty USO” … just a short distance from Philadelphia … the birthplace of America’s independence.  After all, it is that same independence and freedom that our military defends today around the globe.

In 1997, a great man who did so much for this organization and for our troops –Mr. Bob Hope—was named an “Honorary Veteran” by an Act of Congress.

Upon receiving the recognition, Mr. Hope remarked, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime—but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most—is the greatest honor I have ever received.”

Thanks to President Bush, I’ve been blessed to be able to serve this great nation these past eight years … It has certainly been the greatest privilege of my life to serve alongside the men and women who wear the cloth of our nation… They truly represent the very best of America.

I’m proud of all that they’ve accomplished.  A couple of months ago, I visited with hundreds of members of our Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We are making meaningful progress in that region.  Freedom and economic development are expanding in those countries.

As President George Bush said, “The trend is clear: Freedom is on the march.”  And, that is when America and the world are safest.  As others secure their freedom, we better secure our freedom.

I am pleased to report that freedom is indeed on the march … I just returned from a trip through Eastern Europe—to Croatia, Albania, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It was remarkable to see the progress those countries are making in building strong democracies and economies.

We are reminded of this great lesson every morning …  every morning, a remarkable thing happens in cities and towns across America … here in Cherry Hill, in Philadelphia, in Washington, D.C. … that remarkable thing is that every single person wakes up free… 

Not by accident … not by chance … not some inalienable right … but, because great Americans who wear the cloth of our nation have risked and given their lives for our freedom.  We owe these men and women a profound debt of gratitude and our full support.

And, that’s what this wonderful organization has done so well over the years.  At its core, the USO is a caring organization, built on love and respect for those who serve.

 Bob Hope once said, “When we recall the past, we usually find that it is the simplest things—not the great occasions—that in retrospect give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

And, that’s the legacy of the USO … providing family support and other vital programs—a place to rest at the airport, cool refreshment, a phone call or an e-mail home, a visit by a favorite celebrity performer, a trip to visit a loved one—these things do so much to “bring the glow of happiness”—to boost the morale of our troops.

Over the past sixty-seven years, the USO has had a profound impact on the lives of our military members and their families.  I thank each of you for your contributions of time, money, energy and commitment, and all that you will continue to do in the years ahead.

Thank you, again, for this singular recognition.  It has been a great honor to have served with you.  May God bless each of you, the USO, especially all those standing the watch in harm’s way, and may God continue to bless America.