Thank you. We're delighted to be here. [Commanding General 1st Armored Division United States Army Europe and Seventh Army, Major] General [George] Casey and [Commander of Task Force Falcon, Brigadier] General [William] David, thank you for your hospitality. We've had a good tour, a good chance to look around.
I'm in Europe to meet with the NATO Ministers in Brussels and in Greece and then the northern group up in Finland. But we did not want to come to Europe and not stop in here and have a chance to stay hello, to say thank you, and to say we're proud of you.
You work long hours in difficult circumstances with extended periods away from your wives, your families, your children, your loved ones, and we understand that. We're also grateful to the families who support you and through their support of you help support our country.
There's no question but that your willingness to answer the call to duty allows our country to contribute to peace and stability in this still dangerous and untidy world of ours. And it's an uncertain world. If one thinks back just a few years ago, no one would have thought—not one of you would have thought you would be in Kosovo, I suspect.
I was struck that when my friend Dick Cheney, who is now Vice President, had his confirmation hearing in 1989, not one senator asked him about the country of Iraq. And the word Iraq was never mentioned in his entire confirmation hearing before the United States Senate. Yet a year later we were facing an army in Iraq, and Iraq had invaded Kuwait. It points out the uncertainty of our lives in this world and the reality that we will be faced with uncertain tasks in places that we had not anticipated, and that our task really is to live in that world, to be sure that we have the kinds of capability that, regardless of where the threat arises or where the problem occurs, that we as a people are capable and ready to do the job.
Your mission here, your task, your assignment really, is to help maintain stability in this important region. And through your service you're doing that. But you're also helping to protect the freedom of the men and women back home.
I know that peacekeeping operations are complicated. Sometimes they're extremely dangerous. And I understand that the success of these missions depends a lot on each of you, your judgment, your training, your talent, and certainly your determination.
We watch what's happening out here very carefully in Washington. We see the intelligence reports; we follow the details. They come in on a single piece of paper, however, and they're one-dimensional. They report on how many rounds were fired in what area or what village on what date, at what time, and what happened. But they're not three-dimensional and they don't show these faces.
We watched very carefully the return of the ground safety zone and the risks involved, and I must say that it was handled exceedingly well, and all of you are to be congratulated.
I'm sure as you walk around Camp Bondsteel you don't think much about the fact that yours is truly a noble calling. It is. It is very special. With your fellow men and women, members of the armed services all across the globe, you stand watch for liberty. You wake up each morning and voluntarily offer to put yourselves at risk so that you can contribute to a more stable world.
Our fellow citizens back home, and I'm sure even you when you're living back home, tend to forget about the fact that we have that wonderful situation where we can walk out of our doors and not have to look up and down the street to see if someone's going to shoot us. And it is only because of that peace and that stability and that environment that people are able to go about their work and earn a living, and support their families. That is what you are contributing here.
I have a friend who used to call it the gate test. He said if you really want to know what's going on, lift up the gate and see which way things are moving. If you think about it, people all across this globe want to come to the United States to live. They want to come there to work because it is an environment that's hospitable to them. And it's vastly better than so many other places across this globe, and that's very special.
Often in Washington, D.C. we have to think about budgets and dollars and programs for this and programs for that. How much should we spend on the armed services? But my view is we don't spend on you, we invest in you. The men and women in the armed services are not a drain on our economic strength. Indeed, you safeguard it. You're not a burden on our economy, you are the critical foundation for growth. Because without peace and stability which you help to provide, there is no economic prosperity and there is no economic opportunity. Our peace dividend comes from the security each of you helps to provide and the prosperity that you make possible.
We're proud of you. I'm delighted to be here personally to thank you, and to wish you Godspeed. Thank you very much. [Applause.]