Wolfowitz Accepts Award on Behalf of Those Serving
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., June 13, 2004 The Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation bestowed its highest award, the "Most Distinguished American Award," on Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz here June 12, but Wolfowitz said he was accepting the award on behalf of the "truly most distinguished Americans the men and women serving America today."
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, right, makes a point
with Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps John L. Estrada, left, and the Corps former
Sgt. Maj. Alford L. McMichael, who is now the senior noncommissioned officer of
Allied Command Operations at NATO headquarters in Mons, Belgium. Wolfowitz told
the audience at the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundations 10th Annual
Invitational Gala in Atlantic City, N.J., that he was accepting the foundations
Most Distinguished American Award on behalf of all men and women serving the
nation in uniform today. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Wolfowitz, the keynote speaker for the foundation's 10th Annual Invitational Gala, said he is fortunate to have served with many distinguished Americans, and named some Marine generals and sergeants major. But, in a room full of Marines, the secretary quoted a soldier who he said spoke words that apply to every American who serves or has served.
He quoted former Army vice chief of staff, retired Gen. Jack Keane, as saying, "Foreign terrorists have no idea what they are up against. They don't know our will, our courage or our character. To understand America and Americans, they need to understand the Maine in 1918, or Tarawa in 1943, Omaha Beach in 1944, or the Chosin Reservoir in 1950."
Wolfowitz said today's forces have taken up the fight. "There are American heroes out there now performing magnificently on the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq," the deputy secretary noted.
He pointed out that 25 million Muslims in Afghanistan who suffered from a quarter century of invasion and civil war are struggling to have a chance at what Americans have "with the help of brave Americans."
In Iraq, Wolfowitz continued, "another 25 million people, predominately Muslims, are working to build a free Iraq after 35 years of torture and abuse by one of the worst tyrants of the 20th century with the help of courageous Americans."
Most of all, he said, Americans should be grateful, because "brave men and women have been fighting for us and for our children and grandchildren, so we can live free from the fear of terrorism that showed its full horrible force on Sept. 11."
Giving three examples of American heroes on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, Wolfowitz said 27-year-old Army Spc. Danielle Green of Chicago had a beautiful smile on her face as she lay in a hospital bed with her arm gone. It's the arm that she scored more than 1,100 points with as a member of the Notre Dame University women's basketball team.
A member of the 571st Military Police Company, Fort Lewis, Wash., Green lost her arm on May 25 when she was hit by an enemy rocket. She thought she was going to die lying on the roof of a Baghdad police station. But she gained the strength to live when she thought to herself, "Oh God, I haven't done enough in my life. I'm going to live to tell my story."
"So she fought to stay awake, and she did," Wolfowitz noted. "When she got to the hospital, she asked her sergeant if her hand was gone. Yes, he told her."
When she was asked how she survived that terrible moment on the roof alone, Green said, "The Army teaches you how to be brave."
Wolfowitz said Green's conversation never mentioned her missing arm. Instead, she praised two soldiers who went to the roof to search for her hand, which they found, and returned her wedding rings.
"Those soldiers are the real heroes," Green said. "And I told them how proud I was of them."
After a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into his chest, tearing off his left arm and destroying sight in his left eye, Army Sgt. Adam Replogle of Colorado said, "I wish this didn't happen, but I'm going to go on with my life."
Asked if his sacrifice was worth it, Replogle, who has a new wife and new baby, said, "Of course it was worth it we're fighting for everything we believe in. We freed Iraqis from a dictator who was killing Iraqis by the millions. Something had to be done."
Replogle said the sector where his unit was located in Iraq had only two schools when they arrived, and "now there are 40." He's credited with personally changing many lives in Iraq, including making friends with interpreters, helping destroy terrorist cells, helping people get back into their houses and teaching Iraqi kids a few English words.
"He even bought bikes for Iraqi girls and boys," Wolfowitz said, adding that Replogle said, "They were only five bucks and they didn't have anything."
Calling Marine Cpl. Eddie Wright "another impressive human being," Wolfowitz said that as Wright was firing his weapon from a Humvee, it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, rupturing his eardrum, breaking his femur and blowing off both of his hands.
First he had to calm down two Marines who were having difficulty dealing with the situation and instruct them in the proper way to apply tourniquets to help staunch the bleeding in his leg and arms.
Wolfowitz said the citation to the Bronze Star with V device he received for bravery states that Wright was "the epitome of composure understanding the severity of his own injuries, he calmly instructed others on how to remove the radio, call for support and render first aid. He also pointed out enemy machine gun emplacements to his fellow Marines, assisting in the demise of 26 enemies killed in action."
Pointing out that Green, Replogle and Wright and many others stand for what is decent, good and true about America, Wolfowitz said in recent days, the country has been paying tribute to the "Greatest Generation" that saved the world from Nazism.
"This generation is every bit as great as that "Greatest Generation" we owe them that," Wolfowitz said.
Wolfowitz told foundation members that DoD is grateful for what they do to help educate the children of Marines, and for helping children who lost a parent in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. "And this year, you've extended your generosity to children who lost parents serving in the international coalition (in Iraq), taking your generosity to a truly global level," Wolfowitz said.
The foundation raised more than $11 million last year that was used to provide scholarships to children of Marines and federal law enforcement people killed in the line of duty. Exceptions are made, such as for the Oklahoma City bombing, Sept. 11 Pentagon attack and children of space shuttle astronauts. This year, scholarships are going to children of coalition troops killed in battle.
All donations go toward the assistance of children. No administrative costs of any type are charged to the foundation. Membership is free.
Nine Medal of Honor recipients from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were special guests at the annual affair.
Also in attendance were Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the 33rd commandant of the Marine Corps; former commandant Gen. Jim Jones, who is now the NATO Supreme Allied Commander; Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps John L. Estrada; and former Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Alford L. McMichael, who is now the senior noncommissioned officer, Office of the Supreme Allied Commander.