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Armed Forces Day

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, The Pentagon, Washington D.C., Saturday, May 19, 2012

Let me take this opportunity to wish all of our troops and their families the very best on this Armed Forces Day.  I hope you know that all Americans join me in gratitude for everything you do to keep us safe.  Wherever and however you serve, you are an inspiration to me and to millions of your fellow Americans.

President Truman was right to recognize this day, and even more right when he said that it is ‘not enough to yearn for peace.  We must work, and if necessary, fight for it.

You fight for peace so that others don’t need to.  You work for peace, at home and abroad, so that others may know a better life.  Your families share in that labor and in that sacrifice, so that other families need not endure the pains of separation and of strife.  There is perhaps no more admirable calling.

In keeping with that same spirit of service and leadership, heads of state from across the world are joining together at the NATO Summit in Chicago to affirm our shared commitment to work and to fight to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.

Our goal is clear:  to ensure that Afghanistan will never again serve as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against our homeland.  To do that, we have to build an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself.

Thanks to your service and that of your international and Afghan partners, we are closer to achieving these goals than we ever have been before.  Al Qaeda’s leadership has been decimated, the Taliban’s momentum has been thrust back, and the Afghan National Security Forces are increasingly in the lead.

In the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of you at installations across the globe.  As the war in Afghanistan draws towards its conclusion, you still face difficult tasks ahead.  But every day I serve as Secretary of Defense, I have been amazed and impressed by your grit and determination, and your resilience.  It’s the same grit that won the day at Gettysburg, that scaled the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc, that sunk four enemy carriers at Midway, that broke the enemy’s back at Inchon and broke through the Berlin blockade.

You stand on broad shoulders -- a legacy of courage going back to this nation’s founding.  Yet you have set a new standard while carrying a heavy burden over the last decade of war.

As Americans take this Armed Forces Day to reflect on your service and that of your loved ones, I hope they also find new ways to show you the admiration and the respect you have so rightly earned.  You have made our nation stronger and safer over the past decade of war, and whether in uniform or out, I know that you will continue to lead this country and never stop working to fulfill the dream of giving our children a better life.

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