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Rumsfeld Thanks Troops, DoD Civilians for Supporting Terror War

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2004 – With the approach of the one-year anniversary of the Iraqi war on March 19, the secretary of defense thanked members of the military community today for transforming lives, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in America too.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thank members of the military community for their role in the war on terror during a Pentagon town hall meeting, March 12. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Morrison, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told service members and DoD civilians at a Pentagon town hall meeting that the struggle for freedom "has transformed the lives of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq," freeing millions of people from tyranny and oppression.

But Rumsfeld said the war on terror is transforming America too. "As a nation we are rediscovering our character and our courage qualities so profound that even the youngest among us recognize and understand that something momentous is happening, not just in the mountains and the deserts of the Middle East, but in our own neighborhoods and communities," he said.

The secretary said U.S. service members in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world fighting the global war on terror are following in the footsteps of the Minuteman who launched America's first fight for freedom over tyranny. It's a fight he said Americans have never abandoned since the Minutemen launched the "shot heard around the world" at Lexington Green.

"Next week, March 19th, will mark the first anniversary of another fight for freedom Operation Iraqi Freedom," Rumsfeld said. "Its opening shots, if not hard or at least seen around the world, can remind us that Americans are still willing to fight to ensure that freedom will endure."

Rumsfeld acknowledged that, like the patriots of 1775, Americans "do not come easily to war. But also like them, neither do Americans take freedom lightly."

The fight for freedom has never been easy, Rumsfeld noted, but it's been worth every sacrifice that battle has demanded. "Freedom is worth defending," he said. "And if it is not defended, it dies."

He said history will prove that the sacrifices America's service members are making in Iraq and Afghanistan are equally worthwhile. "At the end of the day, when freedom and self-government have taken root in Iraq and that country becomes -- as it will -- not a threat, but a force for good in that region of the world, the rightness of the coalition's efforts will be clear," he said.

The secretary said he expressed his thanks personally to the men and women on the front lines of the war on terror during his recent visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. Today he said was the time to thank those more removed from the front lines, but just as important to the terror war.

"Today I thank you -- those here in the Department of Defense in Washington and elsewhere around the globe because you are the men and women behind the troops, the ones who enable them to do the jobs that they do every day," he said.

"We say to all of them and to all of you here today, thank you for fighting freedom's fight," he said. "And know that millions of Americans believe in you."

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Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld

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