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Cohen Say U.S. Troops Hold Freedom's Beacon

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Jan. 7, 1998 – Politicians may talk the talk when it comes to freedom, but it's American troops who walk the walk, according to William S. Cohen.

During visits with U.S. military men and women in Italy, Macedonia and Bosnia in late December, the defense secretary stressed the global significance of their individual selflessness, sacrifice, commitment and patriotism.

People throughout the world look up to the United States "because we stand for freedom, individual liberty, the right to worship whatever God we have and whatever cause," Cohen told troops in Bosnia. America stands as a beacon of freedom, representing "the right to exercise our thoughts, our speech and our religion freely" without government suppression or outside oppression, he said.

This stance is made possible, "not by words from people like me who have served in politics," the former Maine senator said, "but by deeds by people like you. You are the best that our country has to offer."

During remarks in Tuzla, Cohen noted how the world has changed since the height of the Cold War. He said he never expected to see soldiers from the former Soviet Union standing side by side with U.S. troops, keeping the peace in a country such as Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"It is a remarkable transformation that's taken place the world over," he said. "Everywhere ... they look to us as the country that provides for their security and their safety and their freedom."

Forward deployment of U.S. troops is the backbone of America's national security policy, Cohen told about 1,200 sailors and Marines aboard the USS Guam docked in Naples.

"And when we're forward deployed, ... what we're doing is shaping the environment in ways that are friendly to our country," he said. It also sends a signal to potential adversaries that there is someone with whom they should not contend, "and that is us."

U.S. forces around the world help maintain regional stability and promote prosperity, Cohen told about 250 U.S. troops supporting the U.N. peacekeeping effort in Skopje, Macedonia. "That takes great sacrifice on your part," he said. "No matter where you are, you have always got to be at the ready and on alert."

This effort does not go unnoticed, nor unappreciated back home, Cohen said. People across the country "are strongly supportive of everything that you're doing. They recognize the kind of service you are giving to your country. Even though they can't always see you, you are always in their hearts. They understand also what you are doing for the world."

Cohen told U.S. troops at all three stops that they have the same mission as those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who fought the horrors of World War II.

Quoting from "Citizen Soldiers" by Steven Ambrose, a book about the men and women who made up the U.S. World War II military, Cohen said: "At the core, the citizen soldier of the United States knew the difference between right and wrong, and he was unwilling to live in a world where wrong triumphed. So he fought and won, and all of us in this day, and those who are yet to be born, are eternally grateful."

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