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Rumsfeld Applauds U.S. Servicemembers at Pentagon Event

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2005 – The Defense Department's top civilian leader praised U.S. servicemembers serving at home and abroad during a town hall meeting held at the Pentagon today.

As the holiday season begins, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld observed that U.S. military members fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locales are volunteers who embody the American spirit to defend freedom and to help others.

"You weren't drafted," Rumsfeld pointed out. "Every single person said, 'Send me.'"

America is an amazing country, whose young people in uniform are willing to fight -- and die, if need be -- to defend America and support other peoples' struggle for freedom, the secretary said.

"The folks here and those watching overseas have enormously important responsibilities," Rumsfeld observed. "And, because the task has fallen to you to protect our way of life and to keep America a very special place, a place where people all across the globe look at our country in times of turmoil and tragedy, so many get in line to try to come here, to live here, to work here."

The freedoms, opportunity and self-determination that previous generations of U.S. servicemembers fought and died to preserve for all Americans are the very concepts the terrorists fear and want to attack and destroy, Rumsfeld said.

Throughout history, members of America's armed forces have proven themselves willing and able to defend their country's way of life, Rumsfeld said. One writer, the secretary noted, once said that America possesses "a willingness of heart."

"And that dream, that willingness of heart, is what each of you have sacrificed," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary said it's important not to forget the sacrifices of servicemembers who will not be home celebrating Christmas and other holidays this year -- including those serving overseas, the wounded and especially those who've fallen in battle defending freedom.

"We pray for them and we certainly pray for their families and their loved ones," Rumsfeld said. "They are supporting troops whose service will never be forgotten and, whose mission of defending our nation will never be abandoned.

"We are deeply in their debt, and we hope they know the depth of our gratitude for their courage and for their dedication," he said.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Rumsfeld's comments. "This is a great time of year for us to reflect on the incredible blessings that we have," Pace said.

"It's a blessing that we have 2.4 million Americans -- active, Guard and reserve -- who are either wearing the uniform today or are willing to put it on tonight to do what this nation needs done," he said.

Pace also praised the several hundred thousand DoD civilians and contractors doing the nation's work at home and overseas.

"Because you do what you do," he said, "you provide support to all those other Americans that I just mentioned, who look to us to ensure that when we give them a mission, that they are properly sustained."

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Donald H. Rumsfeld
Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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