Dempsey Helps USO Honor Service Members
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2011 In conjunction with the Defense Department, the USO celebrated 70 years of service and recognized service members for their courage, sacrifice and volunteer service during a special gala last night.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the armed forces and dispelled any notions of a decline.
“I can tell you, you ought to feel good about the fact that you have men and women who are representing this country, trying to do what’s right,” he said. “We’re OK. Don’t get distracted by what you may hear about whether we’re in incline or decline. I can tell you [these] armed forces of ours will remain the most decisive, powerful, versatile, responsive and resilient force on the face of the Earth.”
Dempsey also expressed gratitude to President Barack Obama, his administration and the U.S. Congress for their support.
“We’ve got some great partners among the members of the administration and the members of Congress,” he said. “I’d like to personally, and publicly, thank the Congress of the United States for their continued support of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
“Keep it coming,” the chairman added. “You’ve got a winning team.”
Expressing his “great fondness” for the USO, Dempsey told a story of his first experience with the organization as a young lieutenant in 1974 on orders to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Bayreuth, Germany.
“I thought it was Beirut,” Dempsey said. “So I show up in Nuremberg Airport, and honestly, I was completely lost and I didn’t know what to do. I saw a sign for the USO – this is a true story,” he continued. “So I went to the USO, and there was a nice lady behind the desk.”
Dempsey said the woman read his orders and told him his new duty station was about an hour north of Nuremberg. “We’ll help you get there,” she told him.
“Many of us in this room … have been in and out of harm’s way over the last decade,” he said. “And the USO has always been there for us … [and] will always be there for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.”
In a ceremony during the gala, the USO’s service members of the year received their awards from senior leaders in their respective service branches.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, presented Cpl. David J. Bixler his award; Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, handed Sgt. Lucas J. Chaffins his award, and Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., commandant of the Coast Guard, recognized Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher R. Austin.
Navy Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III, vice chief of naval operations, recognized Petty Officer 1st Class Chad R. Regelin, who was represented by his parents while he’s deployed. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, recognized Senior Airman James A. Baynard for his achievement.
The service leaders congratulated each service member and remained resolute in their support of the troops.
“Let me just say that we … the Joint Chiefs, agree with General Dempsey – the armed forces of the United States are not, and will not, be in decline – you can depend on that,” Schwartz said.
Dempsey reminded the audience to keep deployed service members in their thoughts.
“Just remember this: as we’re sitting here tonight, because of the time difference, … it’s nearly sunrise in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “And hundreds and thousands of young men and women, America’s sons and daughters, are going to get up, strap it on and go out and do the nation’s bidding.
“We owe them, all of us – in uniform, in the department’s civilian structures, [and] the American people – the very, very best we can provide them to make sure they get what they need to get the job done,” the chairman added.