This time of year calls on Americans to reflect on and give thanks for the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy. Of course, we can only do so because of those who put their lives on the line every day: the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who bear repeated deployments, hardships, and danger – without fail and without complaint.
Many have made the ultimate sacrifice. Our nation will always honor their memory. For the loved ones of the fallen, I offer my deepest sympathies and prayers for your loss. And, in the wake of the shootings at Fort Hood, know that I am committed to ensuring that our home bases are safe and secure.
I know the holiday season can be especially difficult for service members and their families, who may be separated from each other by thousands of miles. To the families of our men and women in uniform: know that the American people are indebted to you for the sacrifices of your husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters.
This will be my third holiday season spent as Secretary of Defense. During these years nothing has impressed me as much as the determination, resilience and good humor of those who defend our nation. This holiday season, along with “Happy Thanksgiving,” “Happy Hanukkah,” and “Merry Christmas,” I would add two words on behalf of millions of your countrymen: “Thank you.”