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Holiday Message from the Secretary of Defense

National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 1999 – Greetings. Every year, it is my pleasure to take a moment during the holiday season to review the events of the past year and to reflect on the meaning of the season as well as on the meaning of your service.

At this time last year, many of you were engaged in two great missions: providing relief and rescue to the people of Central America in the wake of Hurricane Mitch; and standing up to Saddam Hussein and his weapons program in Operation Desert Fox.

Since then, many of you have taken part in or supported the largest military operation in Europe since the Second World War. You turned back aggression in Kosovo. You offered a hand of help and hope to refugees across that region. Now you are keeping the peace across Kosovo.

Indeed, whether patrolling the dangerous no-fly zones over Iraq, standing vigilant on the Korean Peninsula or serving at bases here at home, all of you have been working without pause to give the greatest gift of all, the gift of peace.

Last year, I wrote that because you are always there for America, America is determined to always be there for you. This year, I can point to a recognition for you and your families that takes note of your remarkable service: the largest increase in military pay and benefits in a generation. This includes increased rewards for performance, targeted pay raises and bonuses, and the restoration of retirement benefits by returning you to 50 percent at 20 years of service. We can never pay you enough for what you do. But we can, and we will, pay you more.

So wherever you are serving today, know that all Americans are eternally indebted to each of you for your service. Wherever you serve in the coming year, know that you are in our prayers. On behalf of a grateful nation, have a wonderful holiday season. God bless you and your families, and God bless the United States of America.

William S. Cohen

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