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DoD Honors Rumsfeld, Bids Farewell

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2006 – The Defense Department bid farewell to the 21st secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, in a full honors parade at the Pentagon today.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stand at attention as troops march in review during Rumsfeld's farewell parade at the Pentagon on Dec. 15. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

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President Bush; Vice President Richard B. Cheney; Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and many other DoD leaders joined employees and servicemembers to honor Rumsfeld, who has led the department for six years.

“Because of Don Rumsfeld’s determination and leadership, America has the best equipped, the best trained, and the most experienced armed forces in the history of the world,” Bush said during the ceremony. “This man knows how to lead, and he did, and the country is better off for it.”

Bush praised Rumsfeld for preparing the military for the threats of the 21st century and for his determined leadership after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. When the Pentagon was hit, Rumsfeld’s first instinct was to run toward danger and help the wounded, and afterwards he launched one of the most innovative campaigns in history going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Bush said. Rumsfeld then led Operation Iraqi Freedom, driving Saddam Hussein from power in 21 days and helping the Iraqi government form a free democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

In every decision Rumsfeld made, his first thought was for the men and women in the military, Bush said. “Don Rumsfeld’s selfless leadership earned him the admiration of our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines, and we saw how they feel about him this week when he paid a farewell visit to our troops in Iraq,” he said. “Don Rumsfeld’s strong leadership has earned him my admiration and deep respect. We stood together in hours of decision that would affect the course of our history.”

While praising Rumsfeld, Cheney recalled his first encounter with him in 1969, when Rumsfeld hired Cheney out of graduate school. Cheney noted that Rumsfeld was the toughest boss he ever had, but one who never demanded more from his employees than from himself. Rumsfeld has brought this attitude with him throughout his career, Cheney said, and is the very ideal of a public servant.

“Even to the casual observer, this man emanates loyalty, integrity, and above all, love for this country and a devotion to its cause,” Cheney said. “The record of the years 2001 to 2006 only confirms the good qualities and the gift for leadership that Don Rumsfeld has shown all his life.”

Pace also lauded Rumsfeld’s work ethic, saying that he brought a sense of urgency to DoD that quickly inspired everyone. As secretary of defense, Rumsfeld showed commitment, courage, loyalty to his superiors and subordinates, integrity and compassion, Pace said.

Rumsfeld’s love for the men and women in uniform can be seen on his face when he meets with troops, visits wounded troops in the hospital, or attends a memorial service, Pace said. “He loves the men and women of this department, and he loves this country, and he has served it exceptionally well,” he said. “And all of us who have served under his leadership owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Pace also thanked Joyce Rumsfeld for supporting her husband over the years, and for her volunteer work and dedication to military families. “Anybody who has ever been in the same room with Joyce Rumsfeld knows her warmth, her compassion,” he said. For her service, Pace awarded her with the Distinguished Public Servant Award.

In his farewell speech, Rumsfeld reflected on his years of service with gratitude.

“As I end my time here, some ask what will I remember,” Rumsfeld said. “Well, I will remember all those courageous folks that I have met deployed in the field, those in the military hospitals that we've visited, and I will remember the fallen, and I will particularly remember their families, from whom I have drawn inspiration. And I will remember how fortunate I have been to know you, to work with you, to have been inspired by your courage, and by your love of country.”

Rumsfeld said that as he leaves office, he feels urgency for the challenges facing America, but also optimism that the country will succeed. The war on terror will be a long struggle, but Americans have a grit that has carried them through numerous past conflicts, and will help them succeed against the extremist ideology threatening their way of life, he said.

“It is with confidence that I say that America's enemies should not confuse the American people's distaste of war, which is real and which is understandable, with a reluctance to defend our way of life,” he said. “Enemy after enemy in our history have made that mistake to their regret.”

The U.S. is facing a time of great consequence, in which leaders must make the right decisions to ensure a future of freedom and prosperity for the next generations, Rumsfeld said. He reminded those in uniform that America’s message is one of hope for people across the globe.

“America is not what's wrong with this world,” he said. “Ours is a message that was heard and fought for in places like Berlin, Prague, Riga, Tokyo, Seoul, San Salvador, Vilnius, and Warsaw, and that message is even now being whispered in the coffee houses and the streets of Damascus and Tehran and Pyongyang. The great sweep of human history is for freedom, and America is on freedom's side.”

Rumsfeld, who leaves office Dec. 18, received service awards from the Army, Navy and Air Force at the ceremony today. After concluding his farewell speech, Rumsfeld was drawn back to the podium by a sustained standing ovation from his employees and friends. His message was simple: “Thank you so very much; it means a great deal to me. God bless you all.”

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Donald H. Rumsfeld
Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

Click photo for screen-resolution imageJoyce Rumsfeld (right) wears her Distinguished Public Servant Award, given to her by Marine Gen. Peter Pace as she speaks to Lynne Cheney during the farewell parade for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon on Dec. 15. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses the audience during his farewell parade at the Pentagon on Dec. 15. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby  
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