America Pays Tribute to 'Cap' Weinberger
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., April 4, 2006 Caspar W. Weinberger's definition of happiness was "service to a noble cause," current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said here today at the former defense secretary's funeral.
Weinberger died in Maine on March 28 at 88. He was buried today at Arlington National Cemetery. Weinberger served as defense secretary under President Ronald Reagan and as secretary of health, education and welfare under President Gerald Ford.
Rumsfeld, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, and former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Army Gen. Colin Powell delivered eulogies.
Weinberger presided over the largest peacetime buildup of the American military, and many believe that buildup was the straw that broke the back of communism.
Powell said Weinberger took office just six years after the fall of Saigon, Vietnam, signaling the end of U.S. involvement in that conflict. "What (Weinberger) did to rebuild morale and esprit in the military is what those of us who were in uniform at the time will never forget," Powell said. "Yes, he got additional funding. Yes, he helped us buy the weapons systems that made our Army the best in the world. Yes, he got the funding to make the all-volunteer force a success.
"But what he really did for those of us in uniform was to tell us that once again we were respected, we should be proud," Powell added.
Rumsfeld called Weinberger "Reagan's champion" who stood with people he didn't even know. At the time, the world was dominated by superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. "Millions were pleading in silence for freedom from behind that Iron Curtain," Rumsfeld said.
Reagan and Weinberger were determined to rebuild America's military following the "hollow force" debacle of the late 1970s, when the military suffered from inadequate troops, training and equipment. It was a time when many questioned what the United States stood for, Rumsfeld said. "Cap understood that America was not what was wrong with the world," the secretary said. "(He understood) that we should be proud of our values and history. Together with President Reagan, our troops and the American people, he made changes that helped restore pride in our country's uniform and helped win the Cold War."
Former defense secretaries James Schlesinger and Frank Carlucci and Vice President Dick Cheney, also a former defense secretary, attended the ceremony, as well as Weinberger's good friend and Cold War ally former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Rumsfeld said the world should remember Weinberger as a peacemaker. "His goal was an era of hope and peace," the secretary said, "one in which the people of Eastern Europe lived in freedom, one in which the Berlin Wall no longer divided families, but instead existed only in memory or its shards sold as souvenirs of a discredited era.
"Today, we live in that world," Rumsfeld continued, "a world made safer and freer by Cold Warriors like Cap Weinberger."