This is my first holiday season as Secretary of Defense. And as one of my first acts in office, I want to extend my warmest greetings and best wishes to the men and women of the U.S. military and their families.
There have been many times in history when Americans in uniform spent Christmas on battlefields and were stationed at posts away from their families and far from home. As we celebrate this holiday season, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are serving in the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan, in places like Korea and Kosovo, and on ships and submarines at sea around the world.
This week, I had the opportunity to visit with U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq. I came away impressed and inspired by their love of country and dedication to duty. They are serving under difficult circumstances, and that can be especially hard this time of year.
In future weeks and months, I look forward to meeting many more of you -- America’s servicemen and women -- and to having a chance to hear from you directly and to thank you personally for your service to our country.
I hope that all of you who are putting your lives at risk every day for our country feel the pride, affection and admiration of your fellow citizens.
It is your courage that preserves the freedom we inherited from our forefathers. It is your sacrifice and that of your predecessors in uniform that enables Americans to enjoy a safe and peaceful holiday.
Know that there are millions of Americans you have never met who are thinking of you and praying for you -- for your safety; for your families; and for your success.
Have a safe and happy holiday. God bless you.