SEC. GATES: I want to tell you how important what you are doing out here is. We know how tough the fight is. We are mindful of your losses and the hardship that you have. You are making a difference.
This is tough terrain and this is a tough fight. But as General Petraeus has said, we are breaking the momentum of the enemy, and we will reverse that momentum in partnering with the Afghans and will make this a better place for them, so they can take over, and we can all go home. It will be awhile and we'll suffer tougher losses as we go.
Particularly at this time of year, I just want to thank you and thank your families for your sacrifice. Next time you're in touch with them, through email or whatever, tell them I personally thank them for their support of you, for their standing behind you in letting you feel that support.
I guess the last thing I'd tell you is that I'm actually the guy that signs the orders and sends you over here. I've been doing it now for four years. I consider it my highest priority to get you what you need to do the job to complete your mission and to come home safely.
I feel a personal responsibility for each and every one of you since I sent you here. I feel the sacrifice and hardship and losses more than you'll ever imagine. You doing what you do – is what keeps me doing what I do. I just want to thank you and tell you how much I love you.