Today's Service Members Carry on Vets' Legacy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sep. 1, 2004 Today's servicemembers are carrying on the American Legion's idea of selfless service, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the veterans group's convention here today.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers gave the nation's largest veterans organization a report on the state of the military. "Since the founding of the nation, 40 million Americans put on a uniform and answered the call to serve," Myers said. "You have formed a line of honor that stretches across our nation's history."
Myers told more than 5,000 Legionnaires at the Portland Resort that he is humbled to represent the more than 2 million Americans in the military. He told the veterans that the force is engaged around the world. "One fifth of our force is serving on distant shores," he said. "Many of them including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan go bravely in harm's way, day in and day out. The legacy that you have worked so hard to create is in very good hands."
Myers said that in June he represented the U.S. military as part of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He said he met with veterans from that conflict and even with men in their late 70s and 80s could sense their relentless determination and courage.
"When I visit our troops around the world today, I see the same determination and courage," he said. "(I see) the same ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things as they carry on your legacy."
Myers told the veterans that the "most potent" weapon in America's arsenal is the values U.S. servicemembers bring to the fight. American troops, he explained, are tough warriors, who once the fight is over want to help rebuild.
The military will reconfigure for quicker deployments. "We're not simply going to be the first with the most, we're going to be the first with the best," he said.
American servicemembers know the war on terror will take time and they know it will be a tough fight, the chairman told the group. "They know their mission and they absolutely know what's at stake: freedom for ourselves, freedom for our friends and freedom from fear," he said.
The enemy confronting America is unlike any in the past, he said. The terrorist groups are not predictable. Terrorist groups are actively trying to get weapons of mass death and destruction. They use Western technology to strike against innocent men, women and children. "They are extremists who know absolutely no territorial or moral bounds," he said. "They can certainly and have tested our will and resolve."
The enemy is adaptable, the chairman said, so the U.S. military must be more adaptable and more flexible. Myers said the American military is transforming to improve the capabilities needed to face the terror threat. Still, he added, with all that is going on, the American people can count on the military's resolve. "The message is clear for this war on terrorism: Failure is not an option," Myers said.
The military cannot win the war alone, he said. Every agency in the U.S. government must work together to stop extremists. Also, he said, the United States must work with allies around the world to put an end to extremism and the types of conditions that drive people to embrace extremist philosophies.