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Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland , Friday, May 17, 2002

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Applause.) Members of Congress, service secretaries and senior civilian officials of the Department of Defense, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, senior enlisted, sergeant majors, men and women of the armed forces, members of the Andrews family, and ladies and gentlemen:

General (Richard) Myers (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff), I thank you so much for being here today for those generous words, for the inspiration you provide to the men and women in the armed forces, and for all you do for our country. We all appreciate it. (Applause.)

On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I welcome you all to Andrews Air Force Base for the 52nd annual celebration of Armed Forces Day, the day that our country sets aside to honor and to express our thanks to the men and women of the U.S. military, who voluntarily put their lives at risk so that all of us can live in freedom.

This is the 45th year that Andrews has opened its gates for this event, to give folks the chance to meet the heroes that we honor here today and to see some of the technology that gives our troops the ability to engage adversaries with increasing speed and accuracy.

As General Myers indicated, the theme of this year's celebration is "United in Freedom." And since September 11th, the people of America and the people across the globe have indeed united to defend freedom and to oppose terrorism. This is a global war. It's unlike any other that America has ever fought. In Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, U.S. fighting forces, together with our coalition partners, are breaking new ground. They're using new technologies in entirely new ways and proving once again that the United States can and will adapt to meet any challenge to peace and to freedom.

In that regard, it's appropriate that we celebrate these achievements here at Andrews Air Force Base. This is where Lieutenant General Frank Andrews, in another time of global challenge and strife, fought for sweeping change that helped to provide the foundation for our modern Air Force and helped to change the way that wars are fought. Under his command, this base became the peacetime battle lab for defining the role of American air power. He created the first overseas combat air forces. He was the first airman to head the War Department General Staff Division, and he was the first to lead a joint forces war-fighting command in an overseas theater of operations.

And I'm delighted to say that four generations of General Andrews' descendants are with us today, and I would ask that they stand, so all can take a look and say hello. (Applause.)

His son, Alan (sp) Andrews, and a daughter-in-law, Catherine (sp) Andrews. His grandson, Dr. Frank Andrews, and his great-great- granddaughter, Callie (sp) Andrews. I hope I pronounced that right, Callie (sp). Is that right? I've got a granddaughter named Kaylee (sp), so I had to be very careful with that! (Chuckles.)

I know that all of the Andrews family are proud of General Andrews, just as we all are. And we're very pleased you could be with us today, so thank you very much.

America is also united with many nations around the world, and I would make particular note of our NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) partners today. The seven NATO AWACS crews (Airborne Warning and Control System) that have been here in the United States since October 9th, providing radar coverage and surveillance support to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), and freeing up U.S. AWACS for operations elsewhere in the world. The crews from 13 different nations, that returned to Germany yesterday, underscore the strong commitment of NATO in the fight against terrorism. And we appreciate what they've done. We appreciate the people of those NATO countries who enabled them to do that.

I should note that it's not just the Air Force that's represented here today. You will see men and women and equipment from all of the services of the U.S. military, just as they work together to carry out America's missions around the world. Indeed, Joint Operations are and will be the key to our success on the battlefield throughout the 21st century. Technology will improve, no question. Missions will change. Leaders will come and go. But one thing remains the same -- strong and steady -- "like a ten-fold beacon in the night," as one famous general put it some decades ago, and that is your commitment to duty and to country.

You are America's best. You work long hours under difficult circumstances, and endure separations from wives and husbands and children and families. And after the terrorists attacked our country on September 11th, President Bush made a promise to the American people. He said, "We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail." You, the men and women in uniform, are the ones who are delivering on that promise. And I know, and we all know, that that promise that the president made is in very good hands.

So we thank you, the men and women in uniform, for your courage, for your commitment. We thank your families, your wives, husbands, children and parents for the sacrifices that they, too, make so that you can do your jobs so very well for all of us.

Thank you, and may God bless you all. (Applause.)