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House Declares American GI "Person of the Century"

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2000 – House representatives voted 397-0 April 10 naming American GIs as the "Person of the Century" in their Concurrent Resolution 282 with the Senate.

Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base are in the district of House sponsor Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina. "I am continually impressed and made proud by their dedication, commitment and patriotism," he said in introducing his resolution.

"We are just turning the corner on a period in which we ask the American GI to do more and more with less and less," Hayes continued. "As I have gotten to know these brave men and women, one statement continues to ring in my ears, the statement made during a military personnel hearing at the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Base was, 'Sir whatever you give us, we will get the job done.'

"The spirit of the American GI -- soldier, sailor, airman and Marine -- that 'can-do spirit,' is why we honor today the American GI as the 'Citizen of the Century,'" he said.

The Text of House Concurrent Resolution 282

"Whereas the 20th century was a century of conflict between forces of totalitarianism and dictatorship and forces of democracy and freedom;

"Whereas American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines (collectively referred to as "G.I.'s") fought, bled, and died in a number of conflicts during the 20th century, including two World Wars, to secure peace and freedom around the world;

"Whereas in large measure due to the heroic efforts of the American G.I., more people around the world enjoy the benefits of freedom at the end of the 20th century than at any other time in history;

"Whereas the American G.I., in fighting the forces of totalitarianism and dictatorship, had a strong personal sense of right and wrong and did not want to live in a world where wrong prevailed;

"Whereas it may truly be said that during the 20th century the American G.I. accomplished great things while doing good things, becoming recognized throughout the world as a representative of freedom and democracy and, fundamentally, as a force for good in the face of evil;

"Whereas at the end of the 20th century numerous organizations and publications sought to identify and designate a "Person of the Century" based upon achievements and contributions during that century; and

"Whereas in light of the accomplishments of the Armed Forces of the United States during that century both in defeating the forces of tyranny and dictatorship and in embodying a sense of honor, decency, and respect for mankind, it is appropriate that the American G.I. be recognized as the single most significant force affecting the course of the 20th century: Now, therefore, be it

"Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress hereby declares the "Person of the Century" for the 20th century to have been the American G.I."

(From the Congressional Record, April 10, 2000, accessible at the Government Printing Office Web site at www.gpo.gov.)

Rep. Mike Thompson of California extended "GI" to members of the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, saying, "It was the American GI, known at different periods of the century by names such as doughboys, Yanks, Buffalo Soldiers, Rough Riders or the American Expeditionary Force, who carried America's value system abroad and demonstrated unselfish courage aiding those who struggled against tyranny and oppression. … Indeed, there is probably not a region of the world whose people have not benefited from the presence of the American GI during the 20th century."

Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada, a co-sponsor and one of the 10 House supporters who spoke in favor of the resolution, is a veteran Vietnam and Gulf War pilot. "The United States, through two hot world wars and a long Cold War, and numerous wars and conflicts in all the far-flung reaches of this troubled globe, has been called the 'arsenal of democracy,'" he said. "The American GI was the bearer of those arms and our American flag. He was, and still is, the guardian of our and our allies' security and freedom."

"The sacrifice, dedication and honor of our soldiers has been a lamp unto the world, the shining beacon of liberty," Gibbon concluded. "The American GI kept our flame of freedom burning brightly through the grim and dark skies; through blood, sweat and tears; through times of adulation and sadly, through times of unreasonable contempt. But stand they did."

"Throughout this sad and bloody century, it was the GI -- the American citizen soldiers -- who left hearth and home, put his or her personal plans on hold, and traveled to every corner of the world to save the concept of democracy and preserve the value of freedom," said supporter Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona. "Despots and dictators throughout this century were halted in their tracks and driven back to their lairs because Americans were not, as they thought, too soft and decadent to resist their battle-hardened armies.

He concluded: "There have been many great people this century who have symbolized the struggle for freedom in the 20th century -- Churchill, Roosevelt, Reagan -- but it is the millions of people behind them, the American GIs, who actually delivered on that promise."

Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas raised the only dissenting voice and voted present on the roll call. "I would support a resolution which recognized their contributions," he said in preface. "I would far prefer a more tangible showing of appreciation, such as fulfilling the promises of health care made to those who served."

The House referred the resolution April 11 to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Transcript of the House proceeding on Concurrent Resolution 282 is accessible through the April 10 Congressional Record from the Government Printing Office Web site at www.gpo.gov, or the House of Representatives roll call Web page at http://clerkweb.house.gov/evs/2000/index.asp, or the Library of Congress at http://thomas.loc.gov.

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