Seal of the Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 571-3343

Retirement Ceremony of U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Fort Myer, Virginia, Monday, June 21, 1999

Mr. Chairman [General Hugh Shelton, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff], General Reimer, Mrs. [Mary Jo] Reimer, Secretary [of the Army, Louis] Caldera, Janet [Cohen], so many distinguished guests who have been recognized this morning. Let me assure you this is going to be a watered-down speech, not in tribute, but certainly in length.

Thirty-seven years ago, General Douglas MacArthur spoke at West Point, as the Chairman just pointed out, and he charged all the young cadets before him with that solemn mission of "duty, honor and country." And he said that "these three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be and what you will be." Among the cadets who were listening to MacArthur speak that day was an easy-going, rangy young man from a small Oklahoma town. Denny Reimer would rise up to become MacArthur's heir in title and in spirit. And today, we are paying tribute to Denny for his remarkable career of nearly four decades of proud service to our country.

The soldier and jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., once said that it "is faith and enthusiasm that makes life worth living." Whether he was a second lieutenant in Vietnam, or commanding on the front lines of the Cold War in Europe, or devising the massive movement of forces in the Gulf region during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, or traveling to Army bases throughout the world to keep in touch with his soldiers, it was his faith in the Army and his enthusiasm for the troops that has truly distinguished General Reimer.

His life has been one of honor. The many medals and ribbons that brighten his chest testify to his bravery. Some signify distinguished service and others combat valor, but they all show a heart of a courageous warrior and noble deeds.

As we have heard from two previous speakers, Denny's legacy would not nearly be as great without Mary Jo. And though she's a teacher by profession, she's also been a great student, listening and hearing the voices of those that she has cared for over those years and learning from them. And her legacy will be the well-being of American soldiers and their families. And for that, we truly thank you. And I would add an extra star for your willingness to read the works of a would-be novelist and a former Senator. Thank you very much for that.

For General Reimer, his legacy is the moral vision he laid out for each soldier and the strategic vision he's laid out for all soldiers of the Total Army, Active, Guard and Reserve, all coming together to form an even greater whole, of warriors of the information age ready for the battlefields of the future, and of a strong, versatile, 21st Century Army ready for 21st Century missions.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Army is in Southwest Asia helping to ensure that Saddam Hussein remains tightly controlled. The Army is in Korea serving as a stabilizing force while preserving peace on that peninsula. The Army is in Bosnia protecting a steadily growing peace in that turbulent land. The Army is in Albania providing help and relief to hundreds of thousands of refugees. And today, the United States Army is in Kosovo bringing peace and hope to an entire people.

This weekend, I stood in the town square of Urosevac in Kosovo and I was hugged by literally hundreds of ethnic Albanians who were returning to their homes and walking the streets, free from terror, for the first time in many, many months. Standing alongside me were the rock solid and ready soldiers from the 82nd Airborne division who were being cheered like rock stars. That moment is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. Those cheering in that square recognized the true value of peace and freedom restored by our military force and NATO partners. And their sunlit faces and high-fives were also expressing their heartfelt gratitude for the U.S. soldiers on duty in their town, whose presence ensures their peace and their security. Those soldiers were being revered as the true heroes they really are, and they reflected the professionalism of the Army which Denny Reimer has led over the past four years.

When General MacArthur spoke to Cadet Reimer on that spring day so long ago, he also spoke of the enduring virtues of the American soldier. He said, "When I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration that I cannot put into words. He belongs to history."

General Reimer, you are a significant part of that history, and your legacy is strong. For your patience in turbulent times, for your life-long courage, for your inspiring modesty and for your selfless devotion to the men and women in uniform and to the nation that you served so well, we are filled with admiration. And while there are no words so magnanimous that we can deliver today to fully describe our gratitude, we thank you for your duty. We thank you for your honor. And we thank you for the many decades of proud service to this great country of ours. God bless you and God speed. [Applause.]