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Media Availability at the Joseph J. Kruzel Award

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
September 16, 1999 1:40 PM EDT

Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much, Walt, for your kind words. And I also want to take this occasion to thank you personally for your inspiring service and dedication to this department, particularly those many long days and far too many sleepless nights in the crisis in Kosovo and also, I might add, for the three days and three nights in Helsinki. We were unable to tell which was a day or night, but I want everyone to know how instrumental you were to the successful conclusion of those negotiations with the Russians.

Jeremy and Laurie, entire Rosner family, they're a large, beautiful family here today. Gail and John Kruzel, Mrs. Robert Frasure. I see we have the distinguished Ambassador (Jerzy) Kozminski from Poland. Thank you very much for coming. And I think there are others here as well. Ladies and gentlemen.

Roughly 30 years ago, a mechanized evil rolled across Europe into the heart of Prague. And a young Czech playwright saw his nation struggle as a smoldering ache for freedom that echoed the world over. He said that nothing short of human existence is at stake when several months ago, that playwright who turned president stood proudly on the (inaudible) here in Washington. And along with his colleagues from Poland and Hungary, he affirmed his nation's arrival at freedom's gate. And as President Vaclav Havel said, the real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny has assigned to him.

All who knew him know that Gerald Kruzel played his role very well indeed. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Joe was, I would say, part soldier, part scholar, part statesman. He had that raw determination of a soldier, of the Air Force officer that he once was. He had the skilled diplomacy of a born statesman and he had the engaging wisdom of a scholar. And of course, destiny would assign to John Kruzel, along with Nelson Drew and also Robert Fraser, another role. And that is one of a genuine hero who gave his life trying to save the lives of so many more. And so today, Joe remains an inspiration to his family who carry his memory in the center of their soles, to his colleagues throughout the Pentagon who continue his noble work and to the entire NATO alliance that he has served so well.

Longfellow, I like to cite Longfellow since he comes from a state that I'm very proud of, but Longfellow said that we can make our lives sublime and departing, leave behind the footprints in the sands of time. Today, we are honoring a man who has followed with great grace the footsteps that Joe Kruzel left behind. As the President's hand-picked special advisor on NATO enlargement, Joe Arazo finally realized Joe Kruzel's dream and his vision. And he predicted that NATO enlargement is a historical inevitability. And indeed, the fact that we have ambassadors from the former members of the Soviet block who are with us today as new allies I think is reason enough to recognize Jeremy's achievements. But this award is bestowed for so much more because Jeremy also embodies the shining qualities that we admired so much in Joe Kruzel.

Today, we are paying tribute to Jeremy's skillful determination and efficacy both abroad and here at home. And I can attest personally during our trips to Capitol Hill, I saw firsthand Jeremy's efforts to convert reluctant members of Congress. And I think that many in this room, many observers were somewhat surprised by the overwhelming vote in the Senate during the ratification period. It was no surprise to Jeremy who had predicted the outcome to within one vote.

So today we're paying tribute to Jeremy's vision, a vision that he shared with Joe Kruzel, of a Europe that is whole and free, of a vision that was tested greatly this spring. Mere days into their membership, the three new members of NATO found themselves joined in NATO's battle. And indeed, I might point out that their cooperation was essential to NATO's cohesion throughout the conflict. And the fact that we have these representatives here today, again, is a fitting testimony and tribute to Jeremy's extraordinary and enduring success.

As we step forward into the next century, we hold in our hearts the words of an English Poet, Lawrence Binyon, who once wrote that those who devote, indeed, who give their lives to freedom, age shall not weary them nor years condemn. At the going down of the sun or in the morning, we shall remember them. But of course, we will do more than simply remember them, we will carry on their great work. And today, we remember the life of Joe Kruzel. We honor Jeremy Rosner for continuing that legacy.

And Commander, would you now please read the citation.

(Commander read the citation.) (Applause)

(Recipient remarks) (Applause)

QMr. Secretary, I wonder if we might just ask you briefly, have any decisions been made on (inaudible) [East Timor].

AThere are ongoing discussions as we speak, meetings at the White House to try to formulate exactly what the composition of the United States forces would be. As we've indicated on many occasions, our activity in East Timor would be largely supportive in nature: logistics, communications, intelligence, other types of support activities. And that's what we're in the process now of formulating. And hopefully within the next day or so, that can be articulated.

QDo you expect any troops of any kind will be on the ground?

AI would expect some of our people would be on the ground, but in the support capacity and not as combat peacekeepers as such.

QThank you, Mr. Secretary