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Cohen Promotes Marine During Embassy Visit

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jan. 21, 1998 – This could be Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jon Thorsen's most memorable promotion. The 15-year veteran from Marshall, N.C., received his new stripes from Defense Secretary William Cohen in an impromptu courtyard ceremony at the U.S. Embassy here Jan. 13.

Thorson's wife, Kellie, and children, Grant, Garrett and Haylie, were present. After the ceremony, Cohen chatted with them and other Marine guards, giving each a commemorative DoD coin, while other embassy employees gathered around or watched from second-floor balconies.

This was the last stop in Malaysia for the secretary, who is visiting seven countries during his 12-day visit to the Far East. He thanked the embassy staff for their work.

"We need to have strong diplomacy backed up by a strong military, and fortunately we have both," Cohen said. "Your work here is critically important. Your presence here, and the work that you do, is of great benefit to the United States."

Cohen said he is visiting the region to re-emphasize the importance of Southeast Asia to American security. He also praised Malaysia as a country.

"I am a big fan of the Malaysian people. They have a great country here. They're going through some difficult times right now," he said, referring to the financial crisis that has swept all of East Asia. "But I'm confident that, over a period of time, they'll be able to stabilize the economy and continue to enjoy prosperity."

After visiting the embassy, Cohen departed Kuala Lumpur for Jakarta, Indonesia. He met Jan. 14 with Indonesian President Suharto, Gen. Feisal Tanjung, commander in chief of the Indonesian armed forces, and other Indonesian leaders. He also participated in a discussion with the Indonesian Council for World Affairs, attended a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce and met with Marine guards and other U.S. service members stationed there.

He departed Indonesia Jan. 15 for Singapore, and from there, continued his Far East tour with stops in Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. He was scheduled to return to Washington Jan. 22.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense William Cohen chats with Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jon Thorsen and his wife, Kellie, Jan. 13 at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cohen visited the embassy during a 12-day, seven-nation tour of East Asia, and took advantage of the opportunity to honor Thorsen's promotion to his current rank. The 15-year Marine Corps veteran, from Marshall, N.C., is on his second assignment as an embassy guard. Before arriving in Malaysia in March 1997, he was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria. Douglas J. Gillert  
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