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Town Hall Meeting
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Thank you very much, Col. Forrest.  Thank you so much for those fine words.

Men and women, soldiers, sailors, Marines -- I didn't see any coastguardsmen, but if they're here hello as well.

It is a real pleasure for me to be here, to have a chance to look you in the eye and tell you how much we appreciate what you're doing.  That's clearly the best part of the job I've got as Secretary of Defense is to -- get out of Washington and shake hands and let people know personally how much we appreciate your service.

Each of you volunteered -- years ago that wasn't the case.  People were drafted.  On our conscription military.  But today each one of you stepped up and said you wanted to serve.  You offered to put your lives at risk so that all Americans can be free and live in peace.

That's a very special calling that you've undertaken.  You work long hours, you're far from home.  We know that.  Sometimes it's even hot.  Sometimes it's even dusty – um, there's also the uncertainty of not knowing precisely what may lie ahead.  You do it voluntarily because of your love of our country.  You should know that your country knows that and is grateful to you.

We're also grateful to your families.  They worry about you.  They endure long periods of separation.  And that can be particularly difficult this time of year.  So your families also sacrifice for our country.  And while we're proud of you, we're proud of them as well.

Your task in the Global War on terrorism is a difficult one and potentially a very dangerous one.  As President Bush has said, you carry on your shoulders not only the values of America but also the hopes of the world.  And it is so.  Thousands of people, citizens of every race and religion, were killed on September 11th.  People from all across the world.  And at this moment, terrorist networks and terrorist states are seeking weapons of mass destruction.  That will allow terrorists to kill not simply thousands but tens of thousands or potentially hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

Our job, your mission is to stop attacks of such magnitude.  It is a challenge of historic proportions, let there be no doubt.  So, as you work to defend our people from those that wish them harm -- you can have no doubt but that we're not in this alone.

We, our country, have been sent here by Providence at this moment in history to deal with this threat.  We have a coalition of some 90 nations, more than half the countries on the face of the earth cooperating in the Global War on terrorism.  The goal of course is to see that free people can live at peace wherever they live.

So I'm delighted to be here to be able to thank you personally for your courage, your commitment, for your dedication to our country.  It's a wonderful country.  Your nation is grateful.  As families gather across America to celebrate this holiday season, their thoughts and their prayers will be with you.  In their hearts, all Americans know that they can celebrate this season in peace only because brave men and women such as you stand ready to defend our freedom and defeat terror.

I thank you for all you do for your country.  You have my very best wishes for the holiday season.  And may God bless you all.  Thank you very much.

Now I just met with some folks a little earlier and they asked me some tough questions and I knew the answers to some and I didn't know the answers to the others.  But I darn well wrote them down and will be back in Washington trying to help figure out the answers to some of the others.  And I'd be delighted to respond to any questions that you might have.

Who's first with a good loud voice?

If you don't get you hand up I'm gonna let the press ask questions.

Yes sir.

For a complete transcript, including questions and answers, please visit:

http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2002/t12122002_t1211townhall.html