JCS Chairman Salutes U.S. Military, Families, at DAR Event
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 3, 2006 Military members serving in the global war against terrorism, as well as their families, are true American patriots, the Pentagon's top officer told the Daughters of the American Revolution here June 30.
Each servicemember swears an oath to the U.S. Constitution upon entering the armed forces, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told 4,000 DAR members gathered in Constitution Hall for their 115th annual meeting.
While deployed to far-flung locales like Afghanistan or Iraq to perform arduous, dangerous duty, those servicemembers "probably are not repeating the words of their oath to themselves," Pace said, "but they know the oath they have taken."
Servicemembers have vowed not only to defend their country, Pace said, but they've also taken a pledge to help their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines during the thick of battle.
Pace saluted the DAR for honoring the U.S. military. The four-star general said it is also "appropriate that those of us who currently serve in uniformed service take time tonight to thank you back."
"This country is amazing," Pace said in reflection of his 39 years of military service. "Those of us who have had the privilege of serving in your armed forces have some fond memories and some not so fond memories."
Pace touched upon his Vietnam War experiences, noting he'd "lost some wonderful young men" in combat during his time as a young Marine rifle platoon leader. Those fallen Marines "gave their lives for this country ... they'd be delighted to see the patriotism in this room," the general said.
As Pace provided his thanks to the DAR for honoring America's servicemembers, he also asked the organization to remember the sacrifices of military families.
"I know for a fact that when we go off to war, our families wait at home silently and pray that we'll come home safely," Pace said. "And those of us who do not come safely leave a vacancy in those families that can never be replaced."
Servicemembers "who do come home safely stand tall and receive awards," Pace said, while their families "stand in the background and pretend they had nothing to do with it." Military families, he said, remind servicemembers of the vital importance of their duty.
"They dust us off," Pace said, "and they put us back into the fight."
In essence, "those military families who do not wear the uniform are serving this country as well as anyone who ever did wear it," Pace said. "And all of us who do wear the uniform are so enormously proud of them. I wish they could see you, I wish they could feel what I felt when I first walked in here tonight.
"Thank you for all the good works that you do. Thank you for the so many ways that you show your love of this country," the general said. "God bless you and may 115 years from now this hall will be filled again with wonderful ladies like you."
Presley Merritt Wagoner, the Daughters of the American Revolution president-general, thanked Pace for his words, noting his "positive remarks certainly leave us all with feelings of trust and confidence in our military and with a great deal of pride in our citizenship as Americans."
Wagoner presented Pace with the DAR Patriot award, which, she said, "is given to an individual who has exhibited heroic efforts and unwavering commitment in defending the United States of America."
"And, you, sir, not only deserve this award," Wagoner told Pace. "You are the embodiment of its spirit."
Pace responded: "On behalf of your 2.4 million servicemen and women, I accept this on their behalf. Thank you very much."