World Affairs Council Honors U.S. Servicemembers
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 5, 2006 The U.S. military's top general accepted a prestigious award on behalf of the men and women of the U.S. military in a ceremony here last night.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace waits for the ovation to finish April 4 after he received the "Global Service Award" on behalf of the U.S. armed forces, presented by the World Affairs Council of Washington D.C. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace accepted the "Global Service Award" from the World Affairs Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes greater understanding of world affairs.
The award honors "individuals and organizations that have made an important contribution in the international arena," according to information on the organization's Web site.
Pace told the audience that military families also deserve recognition. "As a Marine, when I was in combat I knew when I was in trouble," he said. "And, by the way, when I was in trouble I had Marines on my right and my left. That's not a bad place to be.
"But our families don't know when we're in trouble. And they sit at home, and they pray, and they worry at every moment that their son or daughter, husband or wife is in danger," Pace said.
More than half of servicemembers are married.
Military families experience this uncertainty every day, he said. Men and women work to hold families together, pay bills, get kids to the doctor or dentist, and many other chores. Recent extended and repeated tours have compound the stress on military families, he said.
"And then, when those of us in uniform come home, (families) make us feel as if we were the heroes," he said. They "stand back and pretend that they did nothing while we receive awards. And then, when we get tired, (they) pick us up, dust us off, and put us back in the fight, because they tell us our mission is a good one and what we're doing is a just fight.
"You tell me who really deserves the award tonight? To me, it's our families," Pace added.
"Everyone is well-aware what is going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, ... but there are many, many other places where you will find military people" doing the nation's business, Franklin Kramer, the World Affairs Council's chairman of the board, said.
Kramer, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the Clinton administration, said the tribute to military members is well-deserved. "Today these men and women in uniform serve selflessly on the front lines," he said. "They are all volunteers who stand ready to make the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. The World Affairs Council expresses great admiration and gratitude to these men and women and their families for their service to and sacrifices for this nation."
Pace asked the council members to look at the events of 2005 and to note the many ways in which the U.S. military contributed to the greater good: He ticked off military help to the Indian Ocean countries affected by the tsunami, hurricane relief efforts on the U.S. Gulf Coast, earthquake relief in Pakistan, and military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Certainly, in that span of activities, everyone in this room can find something, if not everything, to be proud of as a nation and to thank the incredible young men and women who serve this country as well as they do," Pace said.
Education is a particular priority for the World Affairs Council, and the general discussed the military take on education and training. He said that servicemembers have a number of training opportunities throughout a career that add up to between three and four years of education.
Officers can get the equivalent of two masters degrees.
"It's an incredible system, and I don't think there's another institution ... that allocates three to four years in a normal career to opportunities to stop, sit back, reflect, get educated, and get back out into the fight," Pace said. He encouraged other departments to find like opportunities for their employees.
Describing an identified shortcoming, Pace said the military must beef up language and cultural training. "That is a gap that we must fill," he said. "It's a focus for all the right reasons, because we are in a long war and we are going to need as many friends as we can get."
Pace said servicemembers must understand America's friends and understand what drives the country's enemy. "The only way to do that is through education, especially language and cultural education," he said. "If we are going to have differences (with others), it's differences based on knowledge not because we stumbled into something by mistake."
The Long War is all about building partnerships, and the military must reach across the spectrum of nations to help end the threat of terrorism, Pace said. "No nation is so large that it can do all that lies ahead by itself," he said. "And no nation is so small that it cannot contribute to the world in a significant, strategic, positive way."
The United States must partner in meaningful ways with other nations, the general said. "When I go to other countries, I normally find that 10 percent of what they would like us to do is not good for us," he said. "And about 10 percent of what we would like them to do with us is not good for them. That leaves 80 percent in the middle.
"Men and women of good faith sitting around tables talking to each other -- educated in the other's language, culture, history and needs -- can do a lot of good for this world," he said.
Pace ended his talk by again thanking the council for the honor to America's warriors. "Whether or not you agree on every single thing that we are doing for our country, tonight you have taken the time to say thank you to your armed forces," he said. "That is a huge message."