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Gates Honors Marine Corps’ Tradition of Service at Birthday Ball

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates shared the Marine Corps’ 232nd anniversary during the past weekend, praising the Corps’ long tradition of service and sacrifice that continues on the front lines today. (Video)

Speaking during a Marine Corps birthday ball at a Washington hotel on Nov. 10, the secretary said he felt honored to be among patriots and their families who have answered the nation’s call in a time of war.

Gates noted that more than 206,000 Marines have deployed since Sept. 11, 2001, to fight in the war on terror. With just 226,000 in the Corps’ entire active and reserve force, just a tenth of all U.S. military members, operating with less than 5 percent of the Defense Department’s annual budget, Gates called that contribution “punching above your weight -- as Marines have always done.”

In addition, he noted that more than 800 Marines have made the ultimate sacrifice.

As America fights a global insurgency fueled by radical extremists, Gates said, it relies on the special qualities and heritage the Marine Corps brings to the fight. “In recent years, the skill and sacrifice of Marines has reflected the complexity of the conflict and the threat posed by an enemy that lurks in the shadows,” he said.

The Marines have long been a “two-fisted force,” he said, “capable of applying raw courage and combat power to win the big battles” during World War II, Vietnam and, most recently, in Iraq.

At the same time, they’ve exhibited the “savvy and resourcefulness to succeed at irregular campaigns” from the so-called banana wars in the Caribbean at the turn of the 20th century to the combined-actions platoons in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s to the work being conducted with tribes in Iraq’s Anbar province today.

“It’s been this way from the earliest years of the republic, starting with the fight against the Barbary pirates, arguably America’s first ‘war on terror,’” the secretary said.

Gates praised the tenacity of Marines serving in Iraq today. He singled out the example of Staff Sgt. Daniel Bogart, who singlehandedly disarmed 65 improvised explosive devices during 170 combat missions in Iraq and disposed of 11,000 pounds of unexploded ordnance. During an Oct. 30, 2006, mission, Bogart and his team were called to the streets of Ramadi to disarm three IEDs. When Bogart was hit by shrapnel from an undetected bomb after disarming two of the three IEDs, he refused to allow medics to tend to him until he had finished the job.

“It was only after he had finished all the tasks that he allowed himself to be medevaced to safety,” Gates said.

Today, the sergeant trains other explosive ordnance disposal Marines so they, too, can help prevent these weapons from harming their comrades.

While paying tribute to the Marines, Gates praised their family members who also serve their country in challenging circumstances.

He singled out Shannon Maxwell, who helped nurse her husband, Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, to health after a mortar attack in October 2004 left him with severe injuries. In addition to helping her own husband, Shannon rallied other military wives and co-founded “Hope for the Warriors” to raise several hundred thousand dollars to help wounded troops’ recovery.

“Marines and their families have sacrificed so much for the good of their fellow Americans,” Gates said. “I will repeat here the solemn commitment I’ve made to Congress and the nation to make sure that those troops and their families get the care and support they have earned.”

Gates closed by thanking Marines for their service. “Those wearing the eagle, globe and anchor on the front lines of freedom, including more than 25,000 currently in Iraq, deserve to know how much we appreciate their dedication, their service and their sacrifice,” he said.

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