Speech
Speech

Acting Secretary of Defense Miller Remarks at the Grand Opening of the National Museum of the United States Army

Nov. 11, 2020
As Delivered by Christopher C. Miller

ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHRISTOPHER C. MILLER: Chairman, thanks for setting the bar very high for the new guy to come in and make a few words. I think all I would say to your statements is: “Amen. Well done.”

This is a great day for our Army. In fact, it’s a perfect day, Veterans Day, to celebrate this unbelievable accomplishment.

I know this day is not about me, but I hope you will humor me for a few moments and allow me to reflect on the powerful ideal of our Army and how it has been a force for profound good in our world for over 245 years.

I want to tell you this in one small story, mine, that I think is emblematic of so many others.

On June 6, 1983, 17-year-old Private Christopher Charles Miller enlisted in the 410th Infantry Regiment of the Army Reserve at Camp Dodge, Iowa.

I didn’t come from a long line of military service. The only family tradition was my father, who was drafted into the Army and earned this Combat Infantryman Badge during the Korean War. My only desire was to serve my nation.

This morning, I had the indescribable privilege and honor to stand with Chairman Milley, Army Chief of Staff McConville … Chief of the National Guard Bureau Hokanson … and the other members of the Joint Staff and cabinet secretaries to participate in the presidential wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

My heart swelled with pride as I saw the sergeant of the guard in the platoon I once led perform her duties. Chief, Sergeant Major of the Army, Mr. Secretary, your force is magnificent. Well done.

Other than marrying my wife, the best thing I ever did, like tens of millions of Americans before me, was joining our Army. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for the values, courage and spirit that our Army instilled in me.

It’s a privilege to be here on this historic occasion as we commemorate the grand opening of the National Museum of the United States Army.

Today’s celebration is the culmination of years of hard work, and I want to thank the Department of the Army, the Army Historical Foundation, and the many others who helped turn this vision into reality.

Special thanks to General Sullivan. General, I was a lowly second lieutenant when you were my chief. Your vision, example, and leadership were so important in creating our peerless Army that we are part of today.

It is quite fitting that this museum would open its doors on Veterans Day, a time when we recognize the selfless service and sacrifice of all those who have answered the nation’s call.

Speaking of call, Tammy Call, well done, ma’am, well done. Thank you for leaning into this and taking this thing on.

Secretary McCarthy, battle buddy from the fields of strife in southern Afghanistan, when you were with the 75th Ranger Regiment, it’s just an extraordinary honor to be here beside you today. Who would have thunk it? But thank you for your leadership. 

A grateful country thanks you today and every day for your commitment to protect our homeland, our people and our way of life.

I’m glad to be joined by my fellow veterans here today to celebrate the story of the American soldier, and on a personal note I look forward to seeing the Path of Remembrance. It’s comprised of roughly 8,000 commemorative bricks, each dedicated to an Army supporter, civilian or soldier, including one from my father, a proud Korean War veteran.

Within these walls lies the most comprehensive collection of U.S. Army artifacts, documents, and images ever assembled in one place. Only here can you immerse yourself in Revolutionary War memorabilia, experience the sights and sounds of trench warfare during World War I, and see up close one of the six remaining D-Day landing craft. 

Around each corner are vivid and compelling exhibits that trace the evolution of warfare through time and illustrate how the Army adapts and overcomes the challenges of the day. 

The Changing World Gallery, for example, captures the innovation and spirit of innovation of the Army as it emerged from the Cold War, harnessed new technologies with devastating effect in the first Gulf War, and then transitioned to fight the war on terror. 

At the same time, it sets the stage for our current challenge, modernizing the force to win a high-end conflict in this new era of great-power competition. 

Together, these stories bring to life the remarkable history of the Army and the countless sacrifices of the American soldier.

From the fields of Lexington and Concord to the hills of San Juan, and from the cliffs of Normandy to the Korangal Valley, more than 30 million brave men and women have donned the Army uniform to fight for freedom at home and abroad.

While they hail from different backgrounds, races, religions, and creeds, these soldiers all have one thing in common: an unfailing devotion to support and defend the Constitution and uphold the core values of the United States Army.

For more than 240 years, they have made innumerable contributions to our nation and the world, not just in combat but also in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, international cooperation, and other vital missions.

Their feats are enshrined throughout this museum. Moreover, many have paid the ultimate price to protect the blessings of liberty that we enjoy today.

As the beneficiaries of their sacrifice, it is our responsibility to preserve their sacred memory and honor their heroic deeds. That is precisely what this museum does and why it’s so important for all to see.

I can’t wait to bring my family here.

The exhibits shown here promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Army’s achievements. They illuminate the hard-earned lessons of war and tell us why we must continue to adapt and lead in a world fraught with danger. And the personal narratives woven throughout these halls will encourage and inspire the next generation of soldiers, who will lead the world’s finest fighting force to even greater heights in the future.

It’s an honor to be here today, and I want to congratulate the United States Army and the Army Historical Foundation on this grand opening. I also want to thank the many patriots whose generosity supports this national treasure. 

I also want to express my gratitude to the women and men of the Department of the Army, past and present, for all you do to uphold our Constitution, defend our nation, and protect our way of life. 

Happy Veterans Day. Well done. What an historic day.

Oh, wait. I have one more thing in my pocket. Chairman, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry stands alone. North of the river. Normandy. Eindhoven. Bastogne. Vietnam. Korea. I think you owe me a drink, Chairman.

Thank you so much. Congratulations.