Rumsfeld Salutes Service Members, Families at Open House
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2003 The skies over Andrews Air Force Base today were dark and rainy, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's words of pride, praise and gratitude directed to America's service men and women and their families glowed like a bright beacon.
Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided remarks at the kick-off ceremony of this year's May 16-18 Joint Service Open House at the Maryland airbase.
Today's open house at Andrews was open to DoD ID holders and invited guests with passes only. The final two days of the free event are open to the general public.
Inclement weather caused the ceremony to be held inside Hanger 3, where Rumsfeld remarked that the theme of this year's open house, "A Force for Freedom," was appropriate.
"I like that word, 'force' it's singular," Rumsfeld declared, "and it suggests that joint and combined war fighting is indeed the path of the future."
The past two years have been a "critical time of challenge and change" across DoD, the secretary observed. And during decision-making in prosecuting the war against global terrorism, Rumsfeld noted that Myers has always been concerned about "the welfare of the troops the men and women in uniform."
Rumsfeld said he, Myers and other members of the Pentagon's senior staff share a "great pride" in the accomplishments and service of America's troops.
"Their pride is well-placed in the contributions that have been and are being made by each of you who wear the uniform," the secretary emphasized to service members, noting, "And today we celebrate your courage, dedication and sacrifice volunteers all."
The open house, Rumsfeld continued, recognizes those who "came to the defense of our country so valiantly in the past, to be sure, and those that are answering that call today.
"We are deeply in your debt," he noted.
The secretary also addressed the children of America's service members.
"The contributions that your mother or your father are making are important," Rumsfeld pointed out. "They are the ones who volunteered to help defend our country so that all Americans each of us can live in peace and freedom.
Military families, too, the secretary declared, make many sacrifices.
"You endure long periods of separation -- worrying, waiting for a day that a loved one would come home," Rumsfeld observed.
Yet, the secretary remarked in a breaking voice, a number of U.S. troops would not come home.
"The price of freedom is high it has always been so," Rumsfeld noted, adding, "We mourn their loss, we grieve with their families, we celebrate their courage, and (we) are grateful for their dedication."
Departed service members "died in a noble cause, and we will keep them in our hearts and not forget them, or their cause," the secretary emphasized, noting he'd recently returned from visits with troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East region.
Rumsfeld praised the skill and accomplishments of Operation Iraq Freedom troops. That campaign, he noted, featured "an unprecedented combination of power, precision, speed and flexibility."
In the global war against terror "the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines (and) the Coast Guard have worked more closely together than ever before," Rumsfeld observed, noting, "The challenge today requires - indeed, demands -- true jointness in war fighting."
The U.S. military "is, indeed, the mightiest force in the world," Rumsfeld said. Yet, he pointed out, America doesn't seek foreign territory, or "no other nation's resources."
"Nor do we seek authority over other people; we seek only freedom," the secretary explained, "freedom for ourselves and for others, including the people of Afghanistan and Iraq."
The JCS chairman remarked that he'd, too, recently returned from a visit with U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and some of the surrounding countries.
Myers said he returned from that trip "standing just a little bit taller and just a little bit prouder of this uniform that I wear, because their talent, their professionalism and their leadership ensured success in Iraq."
"What great attitudes and sense of purpose they all have," the four-star general emphasized.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, Myers observed, "everyone in uniform has been working very hard to combat terrorism." Many Guard and reserve members, he noted, have served more than one tour.
Yet America's service members rarely complain about their sacrifices, Myers pointed out.
"And I know that they'll never let up until the job is done," he declared, noting he's "very proud" of what America's troops have accomplished over the past two years at home and in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Myers said he was also proud of how service members' families "have handled these very, very stressing times."
"There is no doubt," Myers declared, "that the world is a much safer place because of your courage, your commitment and your sacrifice.
"There has never been a more important time to serve," the he pointed out, "and, I can tell you I'm extremely proud to be able to serve with you."
Maj. Mark Valentine, a District of Columbia Air National Guard F-16 fighter pilot with the 113th Operations Group's 121st Fighter Squadron, said he recently returned from a three-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Valentine, 33, listened to Rumsfeld's address and afterward got to shake the secretary's hand, along with his 113th mates.
The married Air Force flyer said he appreciated Rumsfeld's comments of praise for service members' families.
"That's something that typically goes without notice the sacrifice that the families make while the military member deploys," Valentine explained.