GEN. MYERS: Secretary Rumsfeld, and former Chairman, General Shelton and Carolyn, and their son John and Anne who are back there in the audience with three children. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, you're out there somewhere. Former Chairman [of Joint Chiefs] David Jones. Sir, it's nice to see you here as well. We've got Pete Aldridge [Undersecretary, Acquisitions] out there. I see the Chief of Naval Operations, Vern Clark; and Ric Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the Army. Other representatives out there, of the general officers. To include Charlie Holland here today from Special Operations Command, the commander down there at SOCOM. Other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
The first question I asked was how did you get to the Pentagon today given that you don't have a Cadillac anymore to whisk you in here. I said did you jump in? Of course with this much family he couldn't jump in. He said, "No, I came in a Mercedes SUV." [Laughter] What I deduce out of that, that there is life after being the Chairman, and it may be even a more lucrative life than serving your country. I'm not sure, I don't know anything about this Mercedes; it just sounds nicer.
We're here today to celebrate the service of our 14th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton, and pay tribute to this man and to his family, to Carolyn and his family, whose dedication to duty and devotion to his country have really elevated him to a place on the honor roll of great Americans, certainly in most of our hearts.
We're pinning General Shelton's board here, face if you will, to this wall and we think this was a small victory, because we won out over one of his aides in the dining room who wanted to put a life-size chocolate figure over here. [Laughter] This is a good compromise, we think. It fits in with the rest of them and is perhaps more appropriate.
It is no exaggeration when you use terms like General Shelton is a great man, a great officer, a great leader. I don't think any of us take any exception to that. We say that a lot. Those are words that roll off our tongues pretty easily, the word great. And sometimes we say it in a more gratuitous fashion and sometimes we say it when we really mean it. In this case it's apparent that we really mean it.
His four years as Chairman capped a distinguished Army career and joint career that began at North Carolina State University where he got his first taste of Army life and graduated from ROTC there. Gung ho Army right from the start, but a career wasn't a sure thing, and I think most of you know that he took a little detour after his initial commitment. He decided to leave the service and turned to the textile industry as an executive. Fortunately for the country, and more fortunately for our military and those that know him, it was not long after he put his uniforms in storage and put on his business suits, and was excelling, by the way, in the textile world, that he figured that with his country at war – Vietnam at the time – that his true calling was serving that country. So a young Hugh Shelton traded in his business attire for fatigues and went off to the jungles of Vietnam to begin the second part of his tremendous career.
I might add that Carolyn's been a part of this from as far back as recorded history that I can find, all the way back to Speed, North Carolina, where they grew up together. And I don't know what your part of that decision-making process was, it would be interesting to find out sometime about, maybe you were the catalyst behind all of that.
We know about his combat decorations. We know about his two tours in Vietnam. We know he served with the 101st in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. We know he was promoted over the years to command an Infantry battalion an Airborne brigade, an Airborne division and the Airborne corps down at Fort Bragg, and then later on as unified commander, combatant commander of Special Operations Command.
In each of these commands, and for that matter throughout his entire career, the one thing people would be very quick to say about General Shelton was that he was a soldier's soldier. I think what they meant by that, that his number one priority was always the troops, and it was for their safety and for their training and for their leadership. So if they had to go to war or in times of peace that they would prosper.
In 1997 it was President Clinton who picked him to be the 14th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his four years as Chairman he really did work tirelessly on behalf of service members, their families and our military retirees. He made great strides in improving the readiness of our forces while simultaneously crafting the road map of the future, our Joint Vision 2020.
I should add that General Shelton's focus on people and readiness has recently paid huge dividends. When President Bush called upon us to take action in the wake of the events of September 11th, we were ready, and we were ready thanks in no small part to the leadership of General Shelton and the work he'd done in the previous three years and a half or so, and for that matter well beyond that.
So we're here to celebrate 30 years of service to this great country, 38 years of leadership, 38 years of caring about his fellow comrades in arms, 38 years of true sacrifice, and we celebrate all that this afternoon for being a great soldier, a great leader and a great man.
But as the old saying goes, behind every great man is an even better woman and that's certainly true in the case of the Sheltons, so we also thank you, Carolyn, for being with him from the very beginning and providing whatever advice it was to convince him that the uniform was his calling, not the suit that he now wears.
She's been his confidante, his supporter and best friend. I can attest to this just in the short time that I worked with General Shelton. It was pretty obvious the role that Carolyn played in this and how important that role was, especially through some of the trying times at the very end. We know you've touched thousands upon thousands of hearts as you traveled with Hugh and promoted the sorts of things you thought were important for our service men and women; and Carolyn, we thank you very much for your service as well.
Now ladies and gentlemen, it's my great honor and privilege to introduce another great American, a man with whom General Shelton and I have worked with here as Chairman. A man that I think we both admire and respect and who our military forces are really fortunate to have at the helm as our leader during these very difficult times, and that's our Secretary of Defense, Secretary Don Rumsfeld.
SEC. RUMSFELD: General Myers, thank you very much. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I see Davy Jones there. It's nice to see another old-timer here, Davy. I walked down that hall and looked at all those faces, and I guess there aren't many of us around who worked with many of them over the years, but it is indeed a very distinguished group.
General Shelton, Carolyn, the Shelton family. Welcome back to the Pentagon. We've missed you. We're glad you're here.
Now it's time for a public hanging. At press briefings, Dick Myers and Pete Pace [Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs] frequently go down to the Pentagon press hall there and take gun camera videos and show the latest achievements of our forces in Afghanistan. Today we don't need gun cameras. We have the pleasure of looking and admiring the achievements of a wonderful American, a lifetime of achievement, the military career of our good friend Hugh Shelton.
For decades to come, people of all ages are going to wander down this hall and look up at these faces and these names and be inspired. And someone, maybe even someone from North Carolina, will wander by and say. "I want to be like that." And our country will be the better for it.
I might just point out that it was 26, 7, 8 years ago when I was Secretary of Defense, it was the end of the Vietnam War. All the lights had been turned out in the building, and I think they had every third or fourth light on. The halls were bare. There was no such thing as a tour of this place. There were no halls like this with displays to speak of. And we decided it was time to end all that and turn on the lights and open up to public tours and establish halls, and we started dedicating these halls – some close to 25 or 30 years ago. It is a, I have participated in the dedication of several of them over the years, and I'm very pleased to be here for that purpose.
From that war, the war in Vietnam, to the global struggle against terror today from Haiti to the Persian Gulf, General Shelton has been a notable leader of skill, of courage and integrity.
Hugh tells me that it is true, the rumor that he is going to become a television military analyst. I suppose that... Being from Chicago I remember the Chicago Black Sox when Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the boy was in tears, and he said, "Say it isn't so, Joe." [Laughter] I feel that way about Hugh. [Laughter] I suppose he'll be joining all those other military experts in analyzing and scrutinizing and critiquing and criticizing and I suppose possibly even eviscerating and quagmiring. So today, Hugh, Dick and I decided that we would say anything lavish we could say by way of praise about you while we still feel inclined to do it. [Laughter]
Hugh Shelton helped build the Special Forces into the sophisticated, flexible, talented, powerful, courageous team that is doing such a wonderful job in the war on terror. He joins the very long line of legendary leaders in this hallway. It's already quite a neighborhood, but it improves with his presence today.
As the senior military leader of the greatest armed forces on the face of the earth, he helped make them even greater. Hugh, you can properly be very proud of all you've done for our country and for the armed services of the United States. We salute you, we salute that lovely Carolyn and the entire Shelton family, and we congratulate Hugh Shelton, and we're delighted you're here. [Applause]
GEN. SHELTON: I really appreciate the opportunity to be here today and to try a few lines on you that I was planning to use in the next couple of days on NBC.
Mr. Secretary, Secretary Wolfowitz, General and Mrs. Myers, Mary Joe, General David Jones, a great friend, great leader, great Chairman. I'm delighted to have you here today. And of course my good friend Admiral Vern Clark and Connie. I see General Ric Shinseki, a great Army chief there. General Jack Keene and Terry. We go back a long ways. General Charlie Holland. The Chief of the Navy. We're delighted to have all of you here today. I see so many other faces here that I recognize. I can't go to all of them but it is absolutely delightful for me to be here today. I see Admiral Steve Pietropaoli back there. He's the one that told me I ought to go with NBC, and I ought to do it as quick as I could. [Laughter].
Actually, I am glad to be here. It's good to see so many good friends again, so many people that have made my job easy as the Chairman.
You know, today all I want to do is simply say thank you. I want to say thanks to the Secretary for the leadership that he provided this department, continues to provide, the support and assistance while I was the Chairman.
I want to thank the Chiefs for the great support that they rendered and continue to render to this nation. The help that I got from them made the job considerably easier. And as I look down the room and across the way I see faces that were always there, that were all part of a great team.
Now in the days when I was a Chairman I had four speechwriters, so I'd come up here with a whole folder full of notes. Today I'm down to one 3x5 card handwritten. [Laughter]. Which I'm sure you'll be glad to hear.
But thanks to the Secretary and Dick for the very kind words that you had today. Thanks to each of you for attending. You honor myself and Carolyn with your presence here today. And a special thanks to those that made it happen, and I mean the guys like T. McCreary, I know his shop has worked very hard; Joan Asboth, which has basically tried to pull it all together and has worked diligently on it for quite a period of time, and also to Ed Akacki, Protocol, OSD and JCS Protocol. It takes a lot of work to make it happen and I know they're at the heart of it.
If I could summarize my career I would summarize it as one that has been over-recognized and over-honored for the hard work that a great group of professionals in uniform, men and women in uniform, made happen. Today is no exception. I'm honored to be here today to receive this, although as the Secretary said I was reluctant to come when he first told me there was going to be a hanging here today. But in spite of that, it is delightful to be here.
But I'll tell you, the great thing over the last three months has been to watch this great team in action. To see you not only meet the standard but exceed the standard in every case, and make every American proud to be an American. So, I thank you for that.
On behalf of the Shelton family, thank you for being here. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the men and women in uniform, and our great nation.
Thank you very much.