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Gates Praises Retiring Pace; Chairman Thanks Troops, Families, Media

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2007 – Retiring Marine Gen. Peter Pace received high praise from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today during the general’s last news conference as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he thanked servicemembers, families and the media for the vital roles they play. (Video)

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Men and women of the Defense Department line the halls and applaud Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace on his last official day at the Pentagon, Sept. 27, 2007. Pace retires Sept. 30 after more than 40 years of service. Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Gates lauded Pace as “a man who has been my mentor and my friend these last 10 months” since Gates took office in December.

“For four decades, General Pace has served our country with dedication and distinction through times of peace and times of war, (and) during periods of great transition,” Gates said.

He noted that Pace “cut his teeth on the battlefields of Vietnam, made his way up through the ranks during the Cold War, and these past few years, has led our military in a very different, very complex war against jihadist terrorism.”

Through it all, Gates said, Pace “has never once forgotten about the individual men and women who make up our armed forces, and he has never forgotten where he comes from.”

Gates recalled comments Pace made earlier this month at a dinner honoring military families who had lost a loved one. Pace told the group that Marines know fear in combat but are driven to carry out their mission because of a fear bigger than the enemy they face. “What makes Marines get up and do their job is a greater fear that we will not measure up to those who have gone before, that somehow we will let down the Marine on our left and on our right,” the secretary said, quoting Pace.

“General Pace has always been and will always be the epitome not only of a Marine, but of anyone who has ever had the honor of wearing our nation’s uniform, from the bottom ranks to the very top,” Gates said.

Pace took the opportunity to thank U.S. servicemembers for the contribution they make to the United States. “They freely give more than anybody could ever demand,” he said. “And I certainly -- we all -- owe them a great debt of gratitude.”

The general paid tribute to military families, too, who he said “sit at home and worry” about their loved ones and pray for them when they’re deployed. Then, family members “stand in the background when (the troops) come home and get awards and decorations and promotions, pretending the families had nothing to do with it,” he said.

“Our families are serving this nation as well as anybody who has ever worn the uniform, and we thank them,” the general said, repeating an observation he’s made frequently during his term as chairman.

Pace expressed thanks to the Pentagon press corps, as well, calling a free press “absolutely vital” to the country’s freedom. “There is no freedom in any country around the world that does not have a free press,” he said, noting that if he had to pick between a free press and a strong military, he’d pick the free press.

“You need them both,” he told reporters. “But I can tell you, despite the fact that at times the questions have not been comfortable, I have considered it a privilege to participate in the dialogue.”

Pace said he always considered it his responsibility to tell the media the truth as he knew it, to the limits of classification. The media, in turn, had the responsibility to check out the facts and report the truth as its members knew it. “If we both do our jobs, this country is going to be in great shape for a long time to come,” he said.

Following the news conference, Pentagon workers got their chance to say goodbye to the chairman. They lined the hallway outside the briefing studio, applauding the chairman as he exited.

In traditional Pace style, the chairman stopped to shake each and every hand as he walked back to his Pentagon office.

Contact Author

Robert M. Gates
Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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