General and Mrs. [Hugh] Shelton, members of the Joint Chiefs, recipients of the Medal of Honor and other heroes who are with us tonight, Secretary [of Veterans’ Affairs, Togo] West, Director [of Central Intelligence, George] Tenet, Senator [Robert] Dole and Mrs. Dole, and distinguished guests.
Good evening and welcome to a night of musical celebration. Thank you for joining Janet and me and the entire Department of Defense as we pay tribute to the men and women of America’s Armed Forces. I want to begin by thanking all performers, military and civilian, who tonight grace us with their talent and dedication. Our thanks also to Tom Brokaw, who will cast the spotlight on just a few who appear in his Greatest Generation.
The idea for this musical tribute came while we were returning from a Christmas tour of our troops in the Persian Gulf region, where we were joined by Carol King, Mary Chapin Carpenter, David Ball, John Carroll and Master Sergeant Tom McKenzie. We were so moved by the service and sacrifice of the troops we had just seen, and elated by the response we had received, that we wanted to do something that would honor and entertain all of our men and women in uniform who are the guardians of freedom. Janet simply asked, "Why not the best music from and for the best military in the world?" And so the Pentagon Pops was born.
Tonight, we celebrate those who, everyday, give of themselves what no compensation can truly repay, what no tribute can ever fully honor. For the service members watching this -- aboard ships on the calm or turbulent seas, in barracks far from home, on the flightlines and on the front lines, and especially for your families who sacrifice and support you – this night is a small but heartfelt gesture of gratitude from those you defend. We thank you for who you are, for what you give, and for the freedoms we all enjoy.