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Marine Corps Systems Command Birthday Ball
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Washington, D.C., Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thank you, General Brogan for the nice introduction…

Welcome to the spouses, friends, and loved ones here tonight!

And, Happy Birthday, Marines!

It’s great to be back where I belong… with the greatest fighting force in the history of the world—the United States Marine Corps!

When the President and our nation’s leaders need the very best… they call for the Marines!

When security and freedom are threatened around the world… we rely on the Marine Corps!

When it absolutely, positively must be destroyed overnight!”… we send the Marine Corps!

That’s because, while the Marine Corps is the smallest of America’s military forces, they are the mightiest in spirit… 

The Marine Corps has the leanest footprint, but the widest presence around our world…

The Marine Corps is equipped with the lightest load of firepower, but it delivers the heaviest blow...

The Marine Corps is a highly-specialized, elite fighting force, driven by the most generalized mindset: “Anytime. Anywhere.”

Over the past 233 years, Marines have fought in every major and minor engagement the United States has been involved in…  from Tripoli to Belleau Wood… from Iwo Jima to the Chosin Reservoir… from Inchon Harbor to Vietnam… from Somalia to Baghdad.

General Krulak, the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps, summed it up best when he said: “No matter what the crisis or threat, the nation will have one thought: “Send in the Marines!”

Admiral Nimitz, after the deadliest battle in Marine Corps history … Iwo Jima, perfectly captured what it means to be a Marine: “Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Our history is filled with profound stories of heroism and bravery by United States Marines.  And, the next chapter is still being written by Marines serving in the desert terrain and mountainous regions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many of you have been there…

In the opening days of the war in Iraq… the Marines fought so rapidly and so effectively that the Iraqi soldiers never knew what hit them…  In fact, one Marine is alleged to have muttered in disdain: “I hope they’re better lovers, ‘cause they sure can’t fight.”1

It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve alongside the men and women who wear the cloth of our nation.  And, in particular, I have been awed repeatedly by the unbelievable acts of courage and the selfless sacrifice made by Marines around the globe.

President Ronald Reagan said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.”

When I think about all of the Marines who have served and are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan… and at other locations around the world…

When I look out at all of you…

I know that same sentiment still applies.

As Marines, you should know you’re making a difference… every day… all over the world.

And, you—the Marines and civilians of Systems Command—play a particularly important role… developing, testing, and fielding literally everything our Marines drive, shoot, and wear.  You’re doing a great job, and by making sure our warfighters on the ground have the very best equipment available, you’re helping to save lives and win the war. 

Your hard work is well-recognized and appreciated…

It was not long ago… I was in a meeting with the President and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Conway at the White House… President Bush was asking the Commandant—‘what do you need?’ 

“Mr. President,” the Commandant replied, “The Marine Corps has never been so well prepared and supported in war… our needs are rapidly being met and we’ve been given every possible capability available.”

This was a candid comment made spontaneously by the Commandant to the President of the United States—about this Command and the great support you’re providing to your fellow Marines in the field!  I could see the Commandant’s pride as he spoke about the important work that you do… and, I share his admiration. 

I’ll close with two final thoughts…

The first from a true Navy legend—Admiral “Bull” Halsey who once said: “The Marine Corps has just been called by the New York Times, 'The elite of this country'.  I think it is the elite of the world.”

That is high praise from a proud Navy man…

My second thought—on the heels of this week’s election… as the Department begins to transition to a new Administration… we all question and wonder what the future will hold… 

But, I don’t believe the Marine Corps has anything to worry about….

After all, as one of my predecessors, former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard, once said: “I can see the possibility we might be able to live without the Army, without a Navy—we might be able to live without the Air Force—but, this country can never live without a corps of lean, mean Marines.”

Again, I thank you for the invitation to join you on this great occasion!

Happy 233rd Birthday to the United States Marine Corps!

God Bless each of you and your families and especially all those who stand the watch for freedom.

Semper Fidelis!