Perry in Review
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 1997 Saying goodbye to the nation's military men and women is one of the hardest things Bill Perry said he's had to do since becoming the 19th U.S. defense secretary.
Perry is leaving office soon to return to California's Stanford University. The president nominated retired Sen. William S. Cohen of Maine to replace Perry.
Since taking the Pentagon's helm in 1994, Perry traveled to 67 different countries and logged about 700,000 miles in military aircraft ranging from C-20 passenger jets to C-17 Globemaster cargo planes. He went around the world in eight days in December 1996, spending 55 hours in the air traveling from Washington to Europe, the Middle East, then Japan and home again.
Perry befriended kings, ministers and foreign defense chiefs around the world. He met with Russia's new defense minister, Igor Rodionov, to further strengthen military cooperation that began when Russia agreed to join NATO's peace operation in Bosnia. He nurtured NATO's Partnership for Peace so Central and East European nations will join the West in a new era of peace and stability.
He also viewed the tragedy of disease-ridden refugees escaping war in Rwanda, sending in U.S. forces to provide fresh water. He parleyed with Saudi Arabian King Fahd to safeguard U.S. forces in the kingdom after terrorists killed 14 Americans in two attacks. He traveled to the Middle East several times to view the aftermath of the Khobar Towers bombing and to ensure force protection measures were improved throughout the region. He made repeated trips to Bosnia during the NATO peace implementation force's year-long mission.
Perry also met with soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, throughout the United States and overseas. While the secretary visited motor pools, training areas and chow halls, his wife, Lee, met with family members and visited schools, hospitals and community facilities. Perry spent his last three Thanksgivings in Haiti, Macedonia and Bosnia. Every three months throughout his tenure, he accompanied the services' senior enlisted to military bases to check on service members' quality of life.
Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said if Gen. Omar Bradley was the GI's general, "surely Bill Perry has been the GI's secretary of defense."
During a farewell ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., Jan. 14, Perry said his goodbyes to the president, Congress, the media and the armed forces:
"I say farewell to our military leaders who have served our country so brilliantly. They have prepared our forces for war, but they are dedicated to peace ... and for the last four years, peace is the gift we have given the American public. But the hardest farewell to say is to the troops who have served me and whom I have served. Words cannot adequately describe my pride in you. My farewell to you is a simple benediction: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and give you peace."