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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Memorial Service for the Late Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (As Delivered)

Stephanie, Will, Ava, and members of the Carter family, President Biden, friends and colleagues:

We're gathered to mourn the loss of a giant of the Pentagon—and to celebrate an extraordinary life of service. 

Ash Carter was both a brilliant thinker and a bold leader. And as our paths crossed over the years, I always saw the same man that President Biden saw: a public servant of vast integrity, deeply devoted to our troops, and determined—as Ash put it—"to defend our country and make a better world for our children." 

Now, the 25th Secretary of Defense was a physicist at heart. And his curiosity was insatiable.

He loved visiting our state-of-the-art labs and testing cutting-edge new technologies. I'm told that his staff even had a name for these visits: "Ash Carter looks at science." 

He was hands-on—sometimes very hands-on, like when Ash flew along with paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division for a training jump. And the next thing they knew, the SecDef had strapped on a harness and wanted to jump out right alongside them.

I don't know if he changed his mind or if the jumpmaster talked him out of it, but we're glad he didn't jump.

Now, Ash's scientific mindset drove him to always face facts—especially painful ones. 

So as the president noted, he took on the DOD bureaucracy whenever it lagged behind. 

Ash pushed relentlessly to better protect our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from IED attacks. 

And I saw firsthand how many lives were saved because of his urgent efforts.

Now, Ash's powerful mind focused not just on current challenges but on the dangers still ahead. 

And that meant driving to reduce the dangers of loose nukes and catastrophic terrorism after the fall of the Soviet Union.

It meant investing in a 21st-century military postured for new challenges in the Indo-Pacific. 

It meant helping to lead the fight against ISIS. 

It meant insisting on innovation and forging new bonds with Silicon Valley. 

And it meant decades of pushing the Pentagon to, as Ash put it, "think outside of our five-sided box." 

And Ash always put the troops first. 

His leadership helped open all ground combat positions to American women and lifted the ban on letting patriotic, qualified transgender Americans serve openly in the U.S. military.

In the words of an Army officer who could commission because that ban was lifted, "Secretary Carter's legacy lives on through all who are free to serve and choose to serve."

America is more secure because of Ash's intellect and leadership. 

But above all, Ash's loved ones will remember his huge heart. 

Stephanie, his love for you was boundless. 

Will and Ava, you were the pride of his life. And everything that he did was aimed at letting you and your children grow up in a kinder and better world.

Ash was always a man in a hurry. But he always made time to teach and to mentor. 

He loved to visit some far-flung U.S. base and hear a former student shout, "Hey, Professor Carter!" 

And he loved to walk the halls of the Pentagon and to visit our troops. 

In Ash's farewell speech to the Department, he vividly remembered meeting some new recruits. They were standing at attention beside their bunks—not totally sure who he was, but still looking nervous. 

And Ash went up to one of them—an 18-year-old with, as Ash recalled, "a little stubble of a moustache and kind of alarmed eyes." And Ash asked him, "Why did you join us?" And the new recruit said, "My parents always told me America gave us much, and I should give back." And that thought moved the young man to tears.

Now, that's what drove Ash Carter too. 

And he felt it just as deeply as that 18-year-old recruit.

Ash gave back. 

He gave back with his devotion and drive.

And he gave back with his mind and with his soul. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we lost Ash Carter way too soon. 

And we can never know how much time is left to us. 

So let us resolve, as he would have wanted, to turn that time into a season of service. 

To strengthen what remains, undeniably, the "finest fighting force that the world has ever known."

And to defend our democracy.

And to give back to this country that Ash Carter loved. 

May God bless the Carter family, and may God bless the United States of America.