General Vaught [Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, USAF, (Ret.), President of WIMSA], I’m told that you once summed up your simple philosophy on staying calm and focused throughout life’s many challenges—including the rigors of constructing a memorial—this way. "I don’t get excited," you said. "I get satisfaction."
Well, General, you can take enormous satisfaction from what you’ve built here—nothing less than a celebration of the human spirit. It’s the only major international memorial that not only pays tribute to the military service of women, but educates and encourages future generations of women—and, I would add, men—to carry on the legacy of service and citizenship that so many women have built so faithfully and so well.
Secretary [of Veterans Affairs Anthony] Principi, it’s great to see you again. Since the September attacks last year, I’ve often mentioned to you something that touched us all at the Pentagon very deeply—the letters we’ve received from thousands of veterans across the nation. They were flooding us, not only with words of sympathy, but suggestions and strategies to win the war. Most touching of all were the offers from veterans of the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam who sent us their serial numbers hoping to roll up their sleeves and serve once again. They insisted that no job is too small, no challenge too great.
And, if some of those letters came from some of you here, I want to personally thank you … and tell you that my military assistant is ready to take names and numbers.
I can also tell you that the same spirit lives on in the men and women who are serving us throughout the world today. They are truly remarkable, and I want you to know that they carry on your great legacy with proficiency, professionalism, and above-all, well-earned pride.
It’s great to be here this evening. You know, during my first tour in the Defense Department—it’s hard to believe that it was some 25 years ago now—the first time I saw the word "DACOWITS," I thought it was some long-lost relative who misspelled his name. But, I got straightened out pretty fast. I learned that DACOWITS [Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services] has been an outstanding organization of service to the Department of Defense for more than five decades now.
When DACOWITS was established by General George Marshall, another great general who got results, it was because he knew that in the future, women would fulfill even greater roles in America’s Armed Forces. And he knew that a key to making that happen was in telling America about the opportunity for women in the services and maintaining an impartial and ongoing dialogue with the services themselves.
This evening, we celebrate once again General Marshall’s vision, not only for DACOWITS, but for America. As part of transforming how we do business, President Bush charged the Defense Department to look closely at all facets of our operations, including our personnel system. And so, under [Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness] Dr. Chu’s leadership, we looked, in particular, at the relationships between the military services and their families and communities to find ways that we might continue to strengthen these relationships. DACOWITS, of course, was part of this comprehensive review.
For the past several months, we’ve looked closely at how DACOWITS can provide even greater assistance in fulfilling the President’s guidance—and how the Department can give the committee the resources it needs. We also wanted to give the Committee an even more focused and analytical approach that will help give Secretary Rumsfeld the counsel he needs.
This evening, I am pleased to announce the person who will lead this great endeavor. This leader served over 30 years as a United States Marine in a career that included fields ranging from logistics and finance to acquisition and manpower. Though retired now, as my Marine assistant often reminds me, there is no such thing as an ex-Marine.
This Marine’s career was full of remarkable firsts: when I tell you what they are, I may just give it away. She was the first woman of flag rank to command a major deployable tactical command. She was the first woman Marine major general. Indeed, she was the first woman in any of the services to be nominated to 3-star rank.
I think, by now, many of you know that I am describing General Carol Mutter.
She brings extraordinary credentials, integrity and forthrightness—which we will truly value—to this job. And, we had another reason for asking General Mutter—a reason I know General Vaught won’t argue with. As Margaret Thatcher once observed: "If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman."
General Mutter has said that she often tells women that when she started out, the law didn’t allow women to attain one star—but that policy changed soon after she began her service. And so she concludes: "If I can make it to three stars, think of where they can go."
General Mutter, I have a feeling you are going to be looking at that—among many other issues. And under your steady leadership, we will look forward to DACOWITS’ new roles and the recommendations that will help strengthen our readiness, our recruiting and our retention—for all our service members, men and women. These remain fundamental issues as we wage the war on terror and build our forces for the 21st Century, and we’re fortunate to have patriots who choose to give their time to look at them closely, and give us the benefit of their advice.
These are difficult times we face. But in these times, men and women who cherish freedom and seek peace may be strengthened by remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah: "See upon the palms of my hands I have written your name. Your walls are ever before me. Your builders outstrip your destroyers."
To all those who build peace and freedom—all those who have served so honorably in days gone by—those who have picked up that torch and serve us today—you’ve helped and do help us build, as the President has said, "a better world beyond the war on terror."
We have a great mission before us. And we will not be deterred from the truth. The single greatest threat to peace and freedom in our time is terrorism. So this truth we affirm: the future does not belong to the terrorists. The future belongs to all those who dream the oldest and noblest dream of all—the dream of peace and freedom.
General Mutter, thank you for being such a big part of this dream and accepting the call to serve your country once again.