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Dedication of Pentagon USO Corridor
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, The Pentagon, Washington, DC, Thursday, November 02, 2000

Secretary Cohen: Thank you, General [Richard] Myers [Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]. General Myers, thank you always, for your words and your leadership. I especially enjoy it when you get choked up when you talk about me. [Laughter.] You have done a great job in helping to lead our military, and Janet and I truly appreciate the effort that you have made and the leadership you provide. I can see you out there Deputy Secretary [Rudy] de Leon. I know you're out there, and I want to thank you also for what you do on behalf of this great institution.

Ned Powell, the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs; you've already heard from my friend and a great leader, Charlie Cragin [Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs]. General Jim Jones [Commandant of the Marine Corps] is standing tall almost at the rear of the room. General Jones, thank you for the leadership you provide to the Marine Corps and for your friendship over the past 22 years. Admiral [Vern] Clark, Chief of Naval Operations, I saw you briefly and hope you're still here so we can pay tribute to you as well. Thank you for the great job you're doing in leading our Navy. [Applause.]

Kathy Brassell, the Director of Graphics [Office of the Secretary of Defense], and her staff; Kathy, we haven't had a chance to really see all that you've done here, but we're looking forward to thanking you personally when this ceremony is over for the great work that you and your staff have provided for this panel and this corridor.

And General [John] Tilelli [[President and Chief Executive Officer, USO; U.S. Army, (Ret.)], whether you're in uniform or out of uniform, you have made it your life's work to serve this country. And I would say that while all of us are hopeful and optimistic even as we're cautious about our new relationship that seems to be emerging with North Korea, it would not have been possible without your determination and your leadership of the U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula. You led them for three years. I had the chance to visit with you there. You are truly a strong leader on behalf of our forces, and thanks to you and the people that you led, we're in a better position now to help bring a better relationship on that Korean Peninsula. [Applause.]

[Honorary] Mayor [of Hollywood Johnny] Grant; we also have another mayor here, Doc Cooke [Director, Washington Headquarters Services], who is the "Mayor of the Pentagon." [Laughter and applause.] Doc, we all know that this wouldn't be possible without you, because nothing in this building ever gets done unless you go through the Mayor's office. [Laughter.] Thank you for making this possible.

I hope that Tom Donohue is here, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, because he has set a real high water mark in terms of a relationship between the military community and the business community. He sponsored just recently the Military Quality of Life Summit here in Washington. He has made a pledge that he is going to engage the international business community to look for ways in which they can employ thousands of those who are forward deployed. He's going to look for ways in which the business community can reach out and help those who are looking for employment when they complete their terms of service. So thank you Tom, if you're here. And if you're not here, I'll send this to you personally as well.

Ross and Margot Perot, long-time friends to our servicemen and women and to the USO. Let me say that Ross Perot also joined us this last week in Tampa at the change of command for Special Operations [Command]. I think your travel schedule in support of the military is beginning to rival that of the USO. Thank you for all that you've done on behalf of the military over the years. [Applause.]

USO entertainers, Mickey [Rooney], we pay great tribute to you; you're an icon, and it's great to have you and your lovely wife, Jan, here. [Applause.] One of our favorite big screen Marines, "Major Dad," Gerald McRaney; Gerald, thank you for being here today. [Applause.] All-time football great, Hall of Famer, Terry Bradshaw. [Applause.] Terry joined us during our last Christmas tour with the USO, and I must tell you he went deep. [Laughter.] He went deep into the end zone. It was not a "Hail Mary," but a "Hail Terry" pass [laughter], and I want to tell you that the soldiers who were there truly appreciated having you come out and tell them what you thought of the work that they're doing on behalf of our country. So Terry, thank you for being here today. [Applause.]

Janet, I don't know that any Secretary of Defense has had the pleasure and privilege of being married to two first ladies—one of defense, and now one of the USO. I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for your vision of connecting the USO [with the defense department] in this very physical way. They've always been connected, they've always had the same missions. But thanks to you and thanks to your vision for our men and women, you have now joined them in this corridor to make sure that we have a lasting relationship in the minds and the hearts of the American people.

Something that Janet has been committed to is making sure that the American people's hearts and minds are fully joined with those who are wearing our uniform. She’s also been committed to making sure that she helps to carry out the mission of the USO, which is not only morale, which is critically important, but to improve the quality of life. And quality of life is no longer a secondary issue, something that we simply tack onto our mission. Without a great quality of life in terms of the pay and the retirement and the housing and the health care, without those we can't possibly attract and hold onto the finest men and women in the world. We have the finest men and women in uniform the world over.

Thanks to the efforts of you, Johnny, and Mickey and Gerald and Terry and everyone else—supporting the military leadership that we have—we can say that we have the finest military in the world, and that's exactly what we want to keep.

Now just a moment ago, General Tilelli talked about the USS Cole. It ripped a hole in our hearts just as it did in that ship. But what was inspiring was the way in which the Navy gathered round and reached out in support of the families who lost their loved ones, and reached out and touched the wounded, and said that we are proud and we are strong. We are not going to be deterred from carrying out our mission around the world.

So every day, the American people should be mindful, when they think about the hole in the USS Cole, of what our men and women in every service—the Navy, the Marines, the Army, the Air Force, the Coast Guardsmen—do as they face everyday those dangers in a very turbulent world. That's the reason why it's important that we recognize the role of the USO that reaches out and touches them, brings a touch of home, gives them a hug, tells them that we care about their service and their sacrifice and we recognize it. We want to pay tribute to those "Soldiers in Grease Paint."

Mickey, you entered Germany just weeks before V-E Day. We'll never forget that. We'll never forget your irrepressible energy. I don't think we could ever bottle that, but if we could, we'd have a new source of energy and we wouldn't have to worry about oil supplies coming out of the Middle East. [Laughter.] And there are others—Lena Horne, Martha Ray, Marilyn Monroe, who I'm told that you helped to name. We've had the privilege of traveling with Carole King and Mary Chapin Carpenter. And we look forward to having [Gerald] "Mac" McRaney with us and to travel again with Terry Bradshaw, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and so many others.

So this is an occasion for us to say thank you to the USO for what you do. Thank you for your continued mission to improve not only the morale, and to lift it as you do, but to enrich the quality of life for our men and women in uniform. So we are having today not a ribbon cutting ceremony. This is going to be unusual. It's going to be a ribbon joining ceremony, so that we can symbolically link these two great institutions together in a common cause.

Herman Wouk once wrote that "if America is still the great beacon, the promise to hundreds of millions of the oppressed that liberty exists, that it is the shining future, that they can throw off their tyrants, and learn freedom and cease learning war, then we still" need men and women "to stand guard in the night."

We still need the men and women in uniform to stand guard in the night and we still need the USO and all of the celebrities who support the USO, to continue to serve as that beacon, standing guard in the night. You stand with them because of your devotion and your patriotism, because of your service.

So this corridor is going to long endure. It's going to be the symbol of those of you who deliver America to our military men and women the world over. So on behalf of the department, I want to thank the USO. I want to thank you for who you are and what you do and what you give to our country.

Now it's my great pleasure to call to the stage three more patriots who have given generously of themselves to support the USO, to stand with our forces. That's Ross Perot, Terry Bradshaw, and Gerald McRaney. [Applause.]

Ross Perot: It’s a privilege to be with all of you today. I'd like to thank the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders for all they've done to entertain our troops. [Applause.] I would especially like to thank the girls from all 50 states who were finalists in the Miss USA competition—for right after the competition going to the Mediterranean after the Libyan bombing—they were scheduled to stay two weeks. They had so much fun they stayed a month. [Laughter.] And their parents were raising cane with me to get the girls home. [Laughter.] But believe me, that was a morale booster. [Laughter.] But if there were only one person I could thank for all of the contributions of the USO, I'd like to thank my friend, and I wish he could have been here with us today, Bob Hope. [Applause.] Bob, in case you're watching this on television tonight, thanks for all you've done for the troops, and thanks for all the memories. Thank you. [Applause.]

Gerald McRaney: I would just like to say that in the USO tours that I've done, everybody keeps referring to the USO tours as morale boosters. And I hope and I believe that it does boost the morale of the troops when people go and bring a little slice of home, and let them know that we back here in the States do care about what they're doing and that we love them. I believe that it boosts their morale. I know for a fact how much it boosts mine. [Applause.]

Terry Bradshaw: I've been often asked why last year was the first USO tour I've actually gone on. And I was asked "Why not before?" And I say, "I never was asked." [Laughter.] Now I'm loaded up and ready to go again, and we're heading off again this year. [Applause.] I just want to say to Mr. Secretary and Janet and to General Tilelli and all the generals who’re here, including General Jones and General Myers—by the way, I was actually a general myself, if you call a "field general" the same thing [laughter]—I was a little upset today that I wasn't asked to sing the National Anthem because I totally rehearsed it and was ready to go, Mickey. I thought maybe we could have done that. [Laughter.]

But the thing about the USO and the joining today in the corridor is something that I'll never forget. This is the first day and I was here, and I'll take this to my grave, what a wonderful moment. And the thing about the USO tours and our holiday tour that we did last year, is this—we go to give them love and inspiration and encouragement, to let them know that all of us back home love and care about all our military people, all our men and women. But when we leave, we really are the ones who are jacked up and pumped, and overwhelmed, and ready to go. So what a great honor. I look forward to many more years of being a part of the USO. And Mr. Secretary, I can't thank you and the USO enough for having me last year. Thank you. [Applause.]