At the end of the 20th century, after WWI and WWII, and ultimate victory in the long Cold War, America had earned a period of peace and prosperity. But it didn’t happen. Instead, on 9/11, terrorists turned civilian airliners into guided missiles and killed about 3000 people from 60 different nations. They would have killed many more, if they’d had the wherewithal to do so.
Today, America and her friends and allies face threats far more complex, and far less predictable, than those of the past. At his Inauguration in 1961, President Kennedy told the nation, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” Today, a new generation is privileged to assume that mantle of responsibility, and they have.
We are here to celebrate and pay tribute to the service of 7 members of the generation that is answering that call today. These men and women have a great deal in common with the Soldiers of General Washington’s day – they also volunteered to step forward to defend their country in its hour of need. They will join the honored company of well over half a million Purple Heart recipients alive today, who all served and who all sacrificed in the name of something higher than themselves.
It is a profound honor for me to thank each of you, and your families, for your service, your sacrifice, your dedication, your courage, and your commitment.
Secretary Rumsfeld and I, and the entire Department of Defense are profoundly grateful to you. The President and the Government of the United States honor you, and the American people are deeply in your debt.
Lastly, just after 9/11, a reporter asked a little girl, “What is patriotism?” This little girl was only nine years old. She responded, “Patriotism is taking care of America”. I do thank you and your families for your patriotism, your sacrifices, your commitment, and for your service to our Nation.
With pleasure, I now turn the podium over to my good friend and colleague, the Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army, GEN Dick Cody…