Sunday, September 27, 2009

National Leaders Pay Tribute to Families of Fallen Servicemembers

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 26, 2009 - American servicemembers who've perished in the nation's wars "died for the ones they loved," the U.S. military's top officer said today at a special ceremony held on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. "It is for the loved ones like you that our fallen were willing to lay down their lives, so that each of you could achieve your hopes and dreams. Dreams shared by Americans across the ages; dreams for a peaceful world without fear," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told hundreds of people attending the fourth-annual "A Time of Remembrance" ceremony.

The annual "A Time of Remembrance" ceremony honors military members who died during the nation's wars, as well as their families and veterans. It is sponsored by the White House Commission on Remembrance, established by Congress in 2000.

Scores of children of military members who'd died during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom received the commission's Gold Medal of Remembrance at the ceremony. Gold Star Mothers who'd lost a son or daughter who'd died in service to the country were invited to attend the event.

"Life should always be about doing what we love in honor of the ones we love," Mullen said to the fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, other relatives and friends who grieved for their lost loved ones.

Mullen was accompanied at the ceremony by Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr. and other senior military officers.

"As a former commander and as the Army Chief of some of the brave men and women that we're honoring today, I want the families to know that I carry the burden of their loss with me every day," said Casey, who'd lost his father, when Army Maj. Gen. George W. Casey Sr., commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam's central highlands on July 7, 1970.

The freedoms that Americans enjoy today, Casey said, have come with a cost.

"Throughout our history our freedoms have been bought, along with the freedoms of others, through the sacrifices and selfless service of the men and women that we honor today," Casey said.

"I can't think of a greater privilege than to have the opportunity to pay tribute to men and women who in service to their country gave their all," said Army Gen. Anne E. Dunwoody, chief of U.S. Army Material Command and the first woman four-star general in U.S. history.

The landscape of warfare has changed, Dunwoody said, whereby "mothers and daughters are fighting alongside their brothers-in-arms; and now, in numbers greater than ever before, mothers and daughters are among our fallen heroes."

Camella LaSpada, chairman of the "A Time of Remembrance program, saluted the military families who attended the event.

"May we all recognize that heroes are found on the home front, as well as the front lines; I ache for your loss," LaSpada told family members. They and their departed loved ones, she said, are "not forgotten and never will be."

LaSpada later read a message from President Barack Obama:

"I send my warmest greetings to the Gold Star families and all those gathered to honor our brave servicemen and women," Obama said. "The nation is forever indebted to our fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives for our country.

"As family members you have shared the sacrifice of loved ones that have served our nation with courage and an unmatched commitment to country," he said. "They wage war, so that we might know peace; brave hardship, so that we might know opportunity; and pay the ultimate price, so that we might know freedom. They are the best of America and a shining example to all in our nation."

Actor Kevin Bacon, who portrays a military casualty-assistance officer in the HBO film, entitled "Taking Chance," said his role taught him "the importance of honoring our fallen with complete dignity and respect."

Family members of the fallen, Bacon said, also "have made the ultimate sacrifice," by losing their loved ones.

"My thoughts, and the thoughts of our country, are with you," Bacon told the family members.

Ross Perot, a Navy veteran and entrepreneur, saluted the heroism and selfless service of the fallen and praised their loved ones.

"It's an honor to be with all of you today," Perot said, "and certainly, we're all here to honor our fallen heroes who've made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us, our great country, and our families."

Kristine Karolasz, 30, mourned the loss of her brother, Edward Karolasz, an Army staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division who was killed in action on Nov. 19, 2005, during operations in Bayji, Iraq. Karolasz was accompanied by her 8-year-old daughter, Brianna Lancha.

This year's remembrance ceremony "was very beautiful, very well organized, very well put-together and very moving," said Karolasz, a Kearny, N.J., native.

As her eyes welled with tears, Karolasz described her departed brother as "a true American hero."

Karolasz said she's grateful for the chance to celebrate her brother's service and memory.

Pointing to the hundreds of people attending the ceremony, Karolasz said of her brother and of her loss: "So many people are remembering him and so many people have been through what we've been through.

"We miss him," she said.l

Obama: Iran Must Face Responsibilities Over Nuclear Issue

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 26, 2009 - Iran's leaders must come clean with the international community about evidence that Iran has been secretly constructing another nuclear-fuel processing plant, President Barack Obama said today in his weekly address. "This week, we joined with the United Kingdom and France in presenting evidence that Iran has been building a secret nuclear facility to enrich uranium," Obama said in his address. "This is a serious challenge to the global nonproliferation regime, and continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion."

Revelations about Iran's actions, Obama said, make more urgent the slated Oct. 1 negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany.

Yesterday at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Obama, accompanied by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, stated that the day before in Vienna, the United States, the United Kingdom and France had "presented detailed evidence to the IAEA demonstrating that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years."

Iran already has a uranium processing plant in Natanz.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, is a U.N.-sponsored organization that cooperates with its member states and partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

The United States and other members of the international community suspect that Iran is processing nuclear fuel to be used to construct nuclear weapons.

In his address today, Obama said he's still open to "meaningful dialogue" to resolve the Iran nuclear issue.

"But, Iran must cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency," Obama said, "and take action to demonstrate its peaceful intentions."

Iran's leaders must make a decision, he said.

"Iran's leaders must now choose – they can live up to their responsibilities and achieve integration with the community of nations," Obama said. "Or, they will face increased pressure and isolation, and deny opportunity to their own people."

'No Doubt' New Iranian Nuke Facility is 'Illicit,' Gates Concludes

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 27, 2009 - Revelations that Iran has covertly been building an underground nuclear-fuel processing plant belie the Iranian-government's denials that it is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on the Sunday TV talk show circuit today.

"We've been watching the construction of this facility for quite some time and one of the reasons that we've waited to make it public was to ensure that our conclusions about its purpose were right," Gates told host John King on CNN's State of the Union program.

President Barack Obama said yesterday in his weekly address that intelligence data has convinced the United States, the United Kingdom and France "that Iran has been building a secret nuclear facility to enrich uranium."

The Iranian's actions, Obama said, present "a serious challenge to the global nonproliferation regime, and continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion."

The United States and other members of the international community suspect that Iran is processing nuclear fuel to be used to construct nuclear weapons. Iran already has a uranium processing plant in Natanz.

Earlier this week at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Obama noted that the Iranians have been covertly constructing a new nuclear-fuel processing plant near Qom. That information and corroborating evidence of the Iranians' actions, he said, have been provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Intelligence officials have been monitoring activities around Qom "at least a couple of years," Gates said today on CNN.

"And, I think that certainly the intelligence people have no doubt that this is an illicit nuclear facility, if only because the Iranians kept it a secret," Gates told King. "If they wanted it for peaceful nuclear purposes there is no reason to put it so deep underground; no reason to be deceptive about it and keep it a secret for a protracted a period of time."

Gates was asked by King about possible military options against Iran, in view of Iran's apparent determination to acquire nuclear arms despite U.N. sanctions already in place to persuade it not to do so.

While the military option isn't off the table, Gates said, the reality is "there is no military option that does anything more than buy time – the estimates are one-to-three years, or so" before Iran develops a nuclear weapon."

And, "the only way you end up not having a nuclear-capable Iran," Gates said, "is for the Iranian government to decide that their security is diminished by having those weapons, as opposed to (being) strengthened."

There's still room left for diplomacy, Gates said on CNN, as he noted the slated Oct. 1 negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany.

"The Iranians are in a very bad spot now because of this deception, in terms of all of the great powers," Gates told King, "and there obviously is the opportunity for severe additional sanctions and I think we have the time to make that work."

The United States is in close contact with its ally Israel, Gates said, noting the U.S. continues to urge the Israelis "to let this diplomatic economic-sanctions path play out."

New U.N.-levied sanctions against Iran, Gates told King on CNN, could involve banking, particularly sanctions on equipment and technology for Iran's oil and gas industry.

Gates also appeared on ABC's "This Week" TV program hosted by George Stephanopoulos. Gates gave Stephanopoulos his personal view that the Iranian government has the intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, but it may not yet have made a formal decision to move toward the development of nuclear weapons.

What's critical now, Gates told Stephanopoulos, as he told King earlier, is persuading the Iranians that their security will be diminished by trying to get nuclear weapons rather than enhanced.

And, Iran's contested presidential election, Gates said, has revealed political and societal "fissures in Iran" that haven't been witnessed since the Islamic Revolution there 30 years ago.

If the Oct. 1 meeting "doesn't work" to persuade Iran to jettison its desire for nuclear arms, Gates told Stephanopoulos, then "you begin to move in the direction of severe sanctions."

And, imposing tougher sanctions against Iran, Gates said, would "have the potential" of causing the Iranians to change their policies.