Remarks by William J. Perry Secretary of Defense Armed Forces Day May 17, 1996
Psalm 107 begins with the words, They that go down to the
sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the
works of the Lord.
Today, as we celebrate Armed Forces Day, we also mourn the
loss of an American who loved to go down to the sea in ships, and
who did great business in great waters in the service of freedom,
peace and security. His name was Admiral Jeremy Boorda -- Mike
to all who knew him.
Admiral Boorda was a sailor's sailor, a seaman recruit who
rose to be the Chief of Naval Operations. At every stage of his
career, Mike put the interests of sailors and their families
first. And he helped make our Navy the best that the world has
ever seen. I relied on his advice. I loved his spirit. And I
admired his love for the Navy and its people. His untimely death
is a terrible blow to his family, but it is also a loss to the
Navy, to the Department of Defense; indeed, to the nation.
But Mike's legacy -- the Navy he helped to create -- will
live on. I want to tell you today about a discussion I had with
Mike that best captures his pride in the Navy. It had to do with
the remarkable six-month deployment last year by the Nimitz-class
carrier named for the father of naval aviation, Theodore
Roosevelt. During this deployment, USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT,
affectionately known as T.R., flew the American flag in no less
than two oceans, four seas and the Arabian Gulf. When they
returned to their home port in Norfolk, Mike came down to my
office to see me, excited and bursting with pride. And he
arranged to have the skipper of T.R. describe the deployment to
me. I want to describe it to you, because it is a vivid example
of Mike's Navy in action.
When T.R. started out last March, it first went to the
Arabian Gulf to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Then
it sailed to the Mediterranean to conduct routine exercises with
some of our allies in the area, as well as some of our new
friends. For example, two of the battle group's frigates took
part in training exercises in the Black Sea with the navies of
Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia and Ukraine. Together, they practiced
fire drills, damage control and coming alongside. These
exercises were typical Navy at-sea training activities. But
there was nothing typical about navies that once trained to fight
against each other in war, now training to work with each other
in the cause of peace.
At the same time, T.R. supported NATO's Deny Flight
operation enforcing the no-fly zone over the former Yugoslavia.
Then, in August, several members of Saddam Hussein's family
defected to Jordan, and Saddam moved his army as if he might lash
out at his neighbors. We immediately moved T.R. to the Eastern
Mediterranean and sent an amphibious Marine force to the Red Sea.
Both forces positioned to support Jordan. These deployed forces
with credible combat power sent Saddam a clear message, and his
army returned to their barracks.
Soon after this crisis died down, the Bosnian Serbs, in
defiance of a NATO ultimatum, began shelling Sarajevo. So we
rushed T.R. back to the Adriatic Sea to conduct NATO air strikes.
During that operation, T.R. launched 600 air sorties into Bosnia.
And these sorties played a critical role in bringing the warring
parties to the negotiating table in Dayton -- and peace to Bosnia
So on one six-month deployment, T.R. helped to promote a new
era of peace and cooperation in Europe; helped a friend in need;
deterred Saddam Hussein; and played a vital role in ending the
deadliest fighting in Europe since World War II.
Mike had every reason to be proud of T.R.'s battle group.
And nobody -- nobody -- had more pride in his sailors. The
hallmark of Mike's remarkable Navy career was a heartfelt
recognition that no ship, no battle group, is better than the
people who sail with it. He knew we cannot send our ships on
extended overseas deployments without also having sophisticated
and well-trained people with good morale.
Today, we have such people. Their dedication and pride
never fails to impress me everywhere that I meet them -- in bases
in the United States, in ships at sea, and in bases overseas.
From the group of junior petty officers I met in San Diego last
month who, at the end of a long grueling sea trial, asked me to
re-enlist them. To the senior petty officer who volunteered to
delay her retirement for the chance to be among the first women
to deploy on a combat vessel. When I met with her during my
visit last year to the USS EISENHOWER, I asked her why she had
extended. She told me that in her 20 years in the Navy, she had
always been assigned to shore duty with the supply ships, and she
wanted at least one tour on a Navy warship because she wanted to
be able to tell her grandchildren that she had been a real
This sailor, her shipmates, and indeed, everyone who wears
the uniform of the United States military, is the heart, the
brains and the courage behind our defense strategy.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, The credit belongs to the one
who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and
sweat and blood ... And whose place shall never be with those
cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Throughout the 20th century, nobody has been more thoroughly
engaged in the arena than the United States Armed Forces, and
the men and women who lead them. It is their willingness to
enter the arena, to live the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt, to have
their faces marred by the dust, the sweat, and blood, that
determines the difference between victory and defeat, and keeps
our country safe and secure.
Today, let us dedicate this Armed Forces Day to the legacy
and memory of a sailor's sailor; a patriot, a leader, an officer,
an American; a man who dedicated his life to keeping our country
safe and secure.
Last month, in his annual State of the Navy address, Mike
Boorda talked about some of the difficult challenges facing the
modern Navy. But he concluded by saying, Do we have the best
Navy in the world? You can count on it.
As usual, he got it right -- Mike's Navy is the best Navy in
the world. And not only do we have the best Navy, we also have
the best Army, the best Air Force and the best Marine Corps in
the world. You can count on it.