Military News

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bidens Host Veterans, Troops, Families at Naval Observatory

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - Today's military is the "best-equipped, best trained, best educated, and the most competent military in the history of mankind," Vice President Joe Biden told 240 servicemembers and veterans at his home at the U.S. Naval Observatory today.
Biden and his wife, Jill, hosted a Veterans Day luncheon for the servicemembers and veterans and their families at the official vice president's home in northwest Washington, D.C.

"Welcome to your home," Biden told the crowd gathered in a tent for picnic food outside of the main residence on a rainy Veterans Day here. "We're honored to occupy it, but we want to share it. I'm truly grateful to the service all of you have rendered and humbled by your sacrifice."

In his three decades in the U.S. Senate, Biden noted, he met many people. "If I had to list ten of the most impressive men and women I've known in my career, six were wearing a uniform at the time," he said.

Biden said he's made 30 trips to combat zones in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. "Everywhere I've gone, I've marveled at how incredible our fighting forces are... they're dedication, they're courage," he said. "I've seen the fire of patriotism in their eyes."

"I see the most tested among us – citizens who didn't fear the future, but helped shape the future," he said.

Everyone wants to know how the American military turns out such great servicemembers, Biden said. "Well, first they come from a good gene pool – the American gene pool. Then, you train them, you give them the lead," he said. "It's the only military in the world that I'm aware of where you give a 19-year-old kid responsibility over multimillion-dollar equipment and let him or her make their own decisions. It's remarkable."

Biden noted that his wife and First Lady Michelle Obama have taken on the cause of military families as a top priority for the Obama administration. In fact, he said, even before he became Barack Obama's vice presidential pick, his wife told him, "'More has to be done, Joe'" for military families.

Jill Biden noted that she and Mrs. Obama have been visiting U.S. military bases "to listen and to learn from their experiences.

"At each visit, I am overwhelmed by the courage of our men and women in uniform," she said. "The dignity and sense of patriotism that military families just like yours exhibit every day is an inspiration."

The administration is working to improve access to child care, improved housing for military families and quality care and treatment for wounded warriors, Mrs. Biden said, while she and Mrs. Obama have started a campaign to encourage all Americans "to show their thanks through simple acts of support."
When the Bidens' son, Beau, recently returned from service in Iraq, Mrs. Biden said, he was touched by how many people met him at the airport in New Hampshire in a sign of support.

"As a military mom, I know how a simple act of kindness can make a difference," Biden said. "One thing Beau said when he arrived home was 'I can't tell you how much it meant to be greeted by hundreds of people who said 'thank you for your service.'

"On Veterans Day and every day, it is our sacred duty to honor those who sacrifice so much," she said.

The vice president estimated it will take more than $67 billion to give lifelong care for the 15,000 servicemembers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he said it is a cost that is, and must continue to be, a top priority for any administration, and one veterans groups must "stay vigilant" about.

"There is only one truly sacred obligation and it is in giving all those we send all they need and care for them and their families when they come home and the families of those who don't come home," he said. "It is more important than education, health care, the FBI -- anything else in our federal budget."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Ret. Army Gen. Eric Shinseki opened the luncheon by saying it is fitting that Veterans Day is so close to Thanksgiving, "because Veterans Day is an act of Thanksgiving."

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Leon Caffie, a reservist from Gainesville, Fla., was among those who attended the luncheon. Drafted in 1970 and scheduled to retire in January, Caffie said it was important for him to reflect on Veterans Day this year because it is his last in uniform.

"This has been a part of my life for 39 years," Caffie said. A Vietnam and Iraq war veteran, he said it was important to him for leaders to honor servicemembers.

"When I returned from Vietnam as a young American soldier who felt like I'd done my duty to protect our democracy and our way of life, we expected bands and crowds and citizenry, and that didn't happen," he said.

When he returned from Iraq in 2003, Caffie said, he received that long-awaited recognition. And, he said, today's servicemembers are greatly deserving. "I've commanded 170 Army Reserve enlisted soldiers stationed around world, and I'm amazed at what they do when they are asked to perform. They are the silent heroes. They do everything we ask them to do. The young men and women today are full of enthusiasm and want to do whatever you ask of them."

Another soldier, Capt. Stephen Betts, said he was honored to be selected to attend the luncheon. This year is the second that Betts, severely wounded in Afghanistan in April 2008, has faced as a wounded warrior.

"Veterans Day means so much now, now that so many people have gone and been wounded," he said. "The fact that the vice president took the time out of his day to do things like this means a lot."

Betts, an embedded technical trainer recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said he is trying to return to duty.

First Lady Urges Vets to Join Volunteer Campaign

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - First Lady Michelle Obama today urged all Americans, including military veterans, to put their skills to use in volunteer service to assist U.S. communities and citizens in need. "One of the greatest privileges that I have as First Lady is the chance to meet with veterans and to meet with servicemembers and their families all across America," Obama said at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium during the announcement of ServiceNation's Mission Serve volunteer-initiative program.

ServiceNation is a national campaign that encourages service and volunteerism as a means to help address homelessness, unemployment, under education, crime, mental illness and other societal problems.

America's servicemembers, veterans and their families inspire a "sense of awe – true awe," Obama said, through their service and sacrifice to the nation.

And America's veterans, she said, can channel their energy, skills, experience and commitment into the performance of volunteer service.

"What they've learned standing watch over the homeland and fighting wars abroad is precisely what we need to meet our biggest challenges here at home," Obama said. "And that's whether it's turning around a failing school or managing a big-city homeless shelter – we need that energy; whether it's running a rural health clinic or rescuing a community struck by a natural disaster – our veterans have what it takes for success."

For example, as part of Mission Serve's 35 public-private partnership initiatives, Obama said, wounded warriors are mentoring young people and combating gang violence.

And, "veterans are building homes in New Orleans, and working to reduce the dropout rate in Boston and Philadelphia, and helping their fellow veterans reintegrate into communities all across America," the First Lady said.

Supporting servicemembers as they go off to war "requires an active citizenship," Obama said.

"The freedoms they fight for are ones that every single one of us enjoys," she pointed out.

"So it's up to every single one of us to honor their service with service of our own," Obama said. "It's up to us to recognize our veterans not just for all they've done for this country – but for all they will continue to do for this country.

"That's what Mission Serve is all about," she said.

Dr. Jill Biden, spouse of Vice President Joe Biden, and Alma J. Powell, chair of America's Promise Alliance and spouse of former Secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, accompanied Obama at the ceremony.

Dr. Biden and Mrs. Powell, Obama said, take great interest in programs that assist servicemembers, veterans and their families. The Bidens' son, Beau, an Army captain, recently returned home from a year of duty in Iraq.

The concerns of servicemembers, veterans and their families "are our top priority," Biden said. "And, we are working hard to expand access to child care, to improve housing conditions and to provide quality care and treatment for our wounded warriors."

Meanwhile, Biden said, everything that citizens can do to support and recognize the nation's servicemembers and veterans can make a real difference.

"On Veterans Day and every other day it's our sacred duty to honor the service of those who sacrifice for our country – and we can all play a role," Biden said.

"I hope that all of us will pause today and think about how we can join in this call for service," she added. "I know what an impact it will have."

Biden thanked ServiceNation and its partners "for giving Americans concrete ways to participate" in programs that help servicemembers, veterans and their families.

Mrs. Powell received ServiceNation's inaugural Award for Excellence in Military and Civilian Service at the ceremony.

She said that she shares the award "with many military families and countless Americans who step forward every day to help make life better for those around them."

Prior to the ceremony, Mrs. Powell said, volunteers at George Washington University's Marvin Center wrote letters to servicemembers and their families and assembled care packages for troops.

"Efforts like this, and the larger effort behind the ServiceNation civilian-military initiative, are essential, vital to the well-being of our American community," she said.

It takes all citizens "to build a stronger America," Mrs. Powell said, involving partnerships between civilians and military members, schools and communities, and public and private sectors.

Obama's Pledge: America Will Fulfill Obligations to Veterans

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - America will fulfill its obligation to take care of and value those who have sacrificed for the country, President Barack Obama said here today. A day after attending a memorial service at Fort Hood, Texas, the president presided over a Veterans Day ceremony here. The Memorial Amphitheater was cold, rainy and wet, yet still packed as people from around the United States gathered to pay respects to veterans for their contributions and sacrifices.

Obama referenced his visit to Fort Hood, where soldiers and their families are coming to terms with a horrific attack that killed 13 and wounded many others.

"Yesterday I visited troops at Fort Hood," the commander-in-chief said. "We gathered in remembrance of those we recently lost. We paid tribute to the lives they led. "There was something that I saw in them, something that I see in the eyes of every soldier and sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman that I have had the privilege to meet in this country and around the world. And that thing is determination."

Obama said today's servicemembers already deserve a place alongside previous generations' for their courage and the sacrifices that they have made.

"In an era where so many acted only in pursuit of narrow self-interest, they've chosen the opposite," he said. "They chose to serve the cause that is greater than self, many even after they knew they'd be sent into harm's way."

Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have deployed to serve in distant and difficult places, Obama said.

"They have protected us from danger and they have given others the opportunity for a better life," he said. "So to all of them, to our veterans, to the fallen and to their families, there's no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice."

The president vowed the country would recognize their services and said that America is going to do right by them. He noted the words of President George Washington who said, "When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen."

American servicemembers continue to contribute to the United States once they are through with service.

"Just as the contributions that our servicemen and women make to this nation don't end when they take off their uniform, neither do our obligations to them," Obama said. "When we fulfill those obligations, we aren't just keeping faith with our veterans; we are keeping faith with the ideals of service and sacrifice upon which this republic was founded."

Obama said the nation has not always acted that way. Vietnam veterans served with great honor, he said, but were met with condemnation and neglect when they returned from war.

"That's something that will never happen again," the president said. "To them and to all who have served in every battle, in every war, we say that it's never too late to say thank you. We honor your service. We are forever grateful. And just as you have not forgotten your missing comrades, neither, ever, will we."

The president said the nation also has an obligation to the families of those who serve, and vowed the country "will not let you down. We will take care of our own."

Obama had a special message to Americans serving around the world. "When your tour ends, when you see our flag, when you touch our soil, you will be home in an America that is forever here for you, just as you've been there for us," he said. "That is my promise – our nation's promise – to you."

National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of November 10 2009

This week the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard announced an increase in activated reservists, while the Army and Marine Corps announced a decrease. The net collective result is 468 fewer reservists activated than last week.

At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 107,405; Navy Reserve, 6,432; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 13,500; Marine Corps Reserve, 7,931; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 765. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 136,033, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Nov2009/d20091110ngr.pdf.

Chairman Hails Nation's Veterans

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 10, 2009 - In his annual Veterans Day message, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, notes that gratitude for U.S. military veterans is evident not only in the United States, but also overseas. Here is the text of the admiral's message:

Since the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, our Nation has reverently reflected upon those who selflessly defend America. This day now symbolizes the deep gratitude of citizens for their military: the millions of dedicated Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen and their families.

Tangible depictions and memorials to military service exist in cities across our land and even overseas: commemorating Soldiers and Airmen who liberated Europe, Sailors who won the war in the Pacific, Marines who etched their glory in stone at Iwo Jima, and Coast Guardsmen who stand watch over our shores. But the spirit behind such service truly resides in the hearts and souls of our veterans themselves. America could not be more proud of you.

This spirit of service continues to shine in the faces of veterans today. I have seen them this year in my travels around the world and throughout our Nation. We are committed to remembering their service, caring for wounded warriors and their families, and overcoming the challenge of homelessness.

On this day we stop to reflect on the invaluable sacrifice so selflessly given by those who have gone before us. We will never forget them, their families or the freedoms we enjoy today because of their devotion to duty.

To all our veterans – past and present – and your families, the Joint Chiefs and I salute you and thank you for your service.

Sincerely,

M.G. MULLEN
Admiral, U.S. Navy

Gates Notes Poignancy of Veterans Day Observance

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - The Nov. 5 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, provides a special sense of poignancy to this year's Veterans Day observance, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in his annual message commemorating the holiday. Here is the text of the secretary's message:

On this our ninth Veterans Day since the attacks on September 11th, let us take a moment to remember those, past and present, who have served our nation in uniform.

Today we remain a nation at war with hundreds of thousands of men and women deployed far from home. Those serving on the front lines face hardship, danger, and a ruthless and resourceful enemy. Their families keeping vigilant watch for their loved one's return serve and sacrifice as well.

This Veterans Day is especially poignant given the atrocity that took place at Fort Hood, where those who stepped forward to serve were cut down as they were preparing to deploy. The thoughts and prayers of the entire country are with the wounded and the families of the fallen. Our hope is that time will eventually assuage the anguish that this terrible act has caused.

Our nation cannot fully repay the debt owed our veterans and their families, but we can use this opportunity to reflect and remember what these brave Americans have done. David Lloyd George, speaking during the opening months of World War I, the conflict that began this day of remembrance, said: "The stern hand of fate has scourged us to an elevation where we can see the everlasting things that matter for a nation – the great peaks we had forgotten, of Honor, Duty, Patriotism, and clad in glittering white, the towering pinnacle of sacrifice pointing like a rugged finger to Heaven."

To America's veterans: on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your towering pinnacle of sacrifice on behalf of your countrymen.

National Defense University Foundation Announces 2009 Service Heroes

Five Unsung Heroes to Be Honored at the American Patriot Award Gala

November 11, 2009—The National Defense University Foundation (NDUF) announced today five military heroes who will accept the American Patriot Award on behalf of their services along with General David Petraeus, USA, at the American Patriot Award Gala. The event, one of Washington, D.C.’s most prestigious galas, will be held on Friday, November 13, 2009, in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Gala program participants include honoree General David Petraeus, USA, General Ann Dunwoody, USA, and General John Rogers Galvin, USA (Ret). Grammy nominated jazz saxophonist Ski Johnson will perform live.

The 2009 gala will honor and pay tribute to this year's American Patriot Award recipients: General Petraeus, Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Men and Women of CENTCOM. The American Patriot Award Gala supports the National Defense University (NDU) and its crucial mission of educating national security leaders. Students of NDU are the next generation of ambassadors, national and international military commanders, and civilian defense industry leaders – patriots who have committed their lives to furthering the security of our nation and the world.

The five service members will receive honors before a crowd of more than 600 guests, including senior Administration officials, Members of Congress, senior military officials, Ambassadors, and corporate and community leaders.

CSM Rocky Shapla, USA
CSM Rocky Shapla will be honored for his more than 40 years of service with the Army, which he began with the 1st and 2nd ACR in Germany. In 1975, he was promoted and served as 1st Sergeant for the 398 and 399 company units in the 100 Division. After completing Sergeant Major Academy in 1997, he was appointed as a CSM at Armor Battalion at Ft. Knox. His overseas tours include Germany with the 1st and 2nd Armored Cavalry, a tasking by CJCS as CSM of Eagle Base in Bosnia, and a mobilization as Victory Base CSM in Baghdad Iraq, where he sustained an injury. He is currently recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

CDR Stephen Hall, USN
CDR Hall will be honored for his leadership of the Brigade EWO in CENTCOM, where he assumed the responsibilities and requirements as a Naval Officer in support of the U.S. Army. His support and leadership lead to better Electronic Warfare training, management, and execution, increasing the safety of operations of Army and Marine Units forward deployed in theatre.

GYSGT Josue Magana, USMC
GYSGT Magana will be honored for his dedication to the service. From 2002 to 2004, he was a Primary Marksmanship Instructor with Weapons Field Training Battalion at Camp Pendleton. In 2004, he was reassigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines and deployed to Fallujah Iraq. While in Iraq, he was wounded in action and spent the next year recovering from his injuries. In 2006, he laterally moved into the Marine Corps Community Service field. In 2008, he received orders to Marine Barracks Washington. Presently, Magana is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in January 2010.

Tech. Sgt. Timothy R. Evans, USAF
Tech. Sgt. Evans will be honored for his service to others. Evans manages the daily operations of eight MWD Teams and a MWD Trainer. In addition to his daily supervisory duties, he is responsible for the establishment and oversight of all training ensuring Department of Defense certification requirements are met and maintained by each Military Working Dog Team. He recently received recognition as the 11th Mission Support Group 2008 NCO of the Year and Air Force District of Washington’s 2008 Colonel Billy Jack Carter award recipient.

LCDR Holly Harrison, USCG
LCDR Harrison will be honored for her leadership while in command of the Aquidneck. Harrison received orders to the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG) to take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom; she became the first woman to command a Coast Guard vessel in a combat zone. Under Harrison’s command, the cutter and its dedicated crew conducted innumerable search and rescue, maritime interdiction, convoy and combat-related operations. In July 2003, Harrison received the Bronze Star medal; she was the first female member of the U.S. Coast Guard to receive this distinguished award.

“As true heroes among us, these five remarkable service members epitomize the concept of ‘service above self’ by representing the values of courage, sacrifice, and patriotism,” said Walter Stadtler, Ambassador (Ret), President and CEO, National Defense University Foundation. “Their actions are an inspiration to Americans everywhere.”

The five service members and nearly two-dozen others from each of the five services are hosted at the gala through the generosity of the supporters of the “Sponsor a Patriot” Program. This program brings our everyday service “Patriots” to be recognized and to share in the celebration of patriotism. For more information on this program, please visit www.NDUFoundation.org/sponsorapatriot.

The National Defense University Foundation, Inc. was established in 1982 to support and enhance the mission and goals of the National Defense University through promoting excellence and innovation in education by nurturing high standards of scholarship, leadership and professionalism.

The National Defense University is the country’s preeminent institution for military, diplomatic and civilian national security education, research and outreach. It is the only university providing a common educational experience for all the various professional communities engaged in national security. The main campus is located at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the American Patriot Award and the Gala, please visit our websites at www.americanpatriotaward.org and www.NDUFoundation.org , or contact Nancy Miller at 202/685-2527, email: millern@nduf.org.

Iraqi Airmen Score Bull's Eye with Hellfire Missile Shoot

Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - For the first time since the re-formation of the Iraqi air force, an Iraqi pilot fired a missile from an aircraft Nov. 04. A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fired an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base, officials at Multinational Force Security Transition Command Iraq announced in a Nov. 10 press release.

The event marked a milestone for the Iraqi military as they become increasingly responsible for their own security. The ability for Iraqi aircrews to launch missiles from the AC-208 will dramatically improve their ability to operationally support Iraqi security forces on the ground and achieves a key foundational capability for a credible and enduring Iraqi air force.

"These rockets will have a great and active role in fighting terrorism in all parts of Iraq," said Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed, commander of the Iraqi air force.

"I'm extremely proud of both the Iraqi Air Force and our Advisor Team," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Rob Kane, director of Iraq Training Advisory Mission-Air Force. "Together we have all worked hard to make this important day a reality. From the enlisted crews who loaded the missiles, to the aircrew who employed the system, to the air operations directors who integrated the entire sequence of clearance and authorization, this live-fire exercise was a perfect example of what a strong professional partnership between air forces looks like."

The capability is several years in the making and is a dramatic step forward in establishing the Iraqi military as a credible and effective force for defending the people of Iraq, said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq.

Little Red Flowers and Remembering Veterans

By Army Capt. Dayna Rowden
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - Ever wonder what the significance is of the little red flowers that the Veterans of Foreign Wars hand out? What are they and what do they mean? The answer to the first question is simple. They are poppies. Red-flowered corn poppies. So, what's with the poppies?

Poppies have long been used as a symbol of both sleep and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of their blood-red color. In Greco-Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. The bright scarlet color symbolized the promise of resurrection after death.

One of the most poignant symbols of the cost of World War I is the cemetery at Flanders Field in Ypres, Belgium. In the nearly 150 cemeteries in this area, row upon row of crosses and headstones mark the graves of the some of the one million U.S., European and Australian soldiers and civilians who gave their lives in almost four years of combat on the salient near Ypres. More than 54,000 crosses mark the graves of unknown dead.

Among the rows in the gardens of stone, life and resurrection spring forth in the form of the red-flowered corn poppy, a common plant in Europe. Canadian surgeon and soldier, Lt. Col. John McCrae wrote the poem "In Flanders Fields" May 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer.

In tribute to the opening lines of McCrae's poem, Moina Michael vowed in her 1915 poem "We Shall Keep the Faith" to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in the war. Thus the plant became a symbol for the dead World War I soldiers.

Veterans groups in England, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States have adopted the red poppy as not only a symbol of remembrance of the sacrifice of veterans who have died but of the continued sacrifice that veterans make in service to their countries.

While serving a year in Iraq, days may seem to pass with little difference from one to the next. We try to mark important holidays through decorations, barbeques, picnics and concerts. These celebrations help to remind us of our loved ones and of our rituals and normalcy back at home. Still, the significance of holidays and celebrations may be lost in our separation from what makes them so dear.

Veterans Day is not one of those holidays. In fact, being in a combat zone reminds us of the sacrifice and service that make this holiday so significant. Strip away the barbeques. Get rid of the days off. Take down the red, white and blue bunting and the patriotic parades. What do you have left? You have the essence of this somber day. Remembrance.

What are we remembering? We remember that by the signing of the Armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 marking the end of World War I, more than 20 million from over 26 countries were dead.

We are not alone in this remembrance. In many parts of the world people take a two-minute moment of silence at 11 a.m. as a sign of respect for people who died in the war.

When you see the simple and humble poppy, think about the sacrifice of the veterans who have come before you and the ones that will follow. Though poppies grow, we should not sleep. We should remain vigilant and remember.

(Army Capt. Capt. Dayna Rowden serves with Multinational Division South in Iraq)

Gates Discusses Reagan's Role in Fall of Berlin Wall

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - A flexible American strategy based on Ronald Reagan's inflexible belief in liberty was key to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here yesterday. The secretary spoke at the Library of Congress at a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. The Reagan Library sponsored the event.

And Gates was in a position to know: he served as the deputy director of intelligence at the CIA, and as deputy National Security Advisor under President George H.W. Bush.

When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, American influence was low: Iran had humiliated the United States in taking hostages at the embassy in Tehran, the country was in what President Jimmy Carter called a malaise and the Soviet Union looked to match or surpass American military might.

Gates called Reagan "the ultimate Cold Warrior." The new president's first job was to restore America's military strength. "A broad U.S. defense build-up began early in the Reagan administration, with more advanced planes, ships, submarines, combat vehicles and nuclear weapons added to America's arsenal," Gates said during his speech.

And Reagan wasn't afraid to use this new American power. Libya challenged American naval might in the Mediterranean Sea with the "Line of Death" at the Gulf of Sidra. In 1981, Reagan sent two aircraft carriers across the line, and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi sent two fighters to challenge the American ships. \

"Big mistake," Gates said. Under Ronald Reagan's new, aggressive rules of engagement, two F-14 Tomcats splashed the two Libyan fighters."

Reagan extended the strategy of containment of the Soviet Union far beyond the primary theater of Europe. The Soviets found themselves being confronted in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, Gates said.

"While countering the Soviets ... had been a common feature of every administration since the end of World War II, under President Reagan this struggle gained new moral energy, purpose and sense of urgency," Gates said.

Reagan believed that the West would triumph over communism in his lifetime, and through his two terms in office he never lost sight of that, the secretary said. On Jun 12, 1987, Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate on the western side of the Berlin Wall and issued a challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

"Mr. Gobachev, tear down this wall," Reagan said.

Gates said there were some in Reagan's own State Department who didn't want him to say those words, but the president stuck to his guns.

But Reagan was not simply an ideologue. "President Reagan also had the insight, the sense of historical moment, to know when it was time to sheathe the sword, soften the tone and re-engage – even with our most implacable enemy," Gates said.

Reagan's meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in 1984, was "a turning point," the secretary said. The president followed this with meeting with new Soviet Leader Gorbachev in 1985. And there were items the two sides could negotiate, Gates said.

"He made it clear that we did not value the ICBMs, tanks, or warships in and of themselves. They were negotiable," the secretary said. "No, the West's differences with the East – the democracies' dispute with communism – was, he said, 'not about weapons, but about liberty.'"

Reagan never lost sight of the fact that the Cold War was a struggle of ideas and economic systems at it root. There were treaties with the nation Reagan called "the Evil Empire." Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, banning the use of these missile systems.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Gates was President George H.W. Bush's deputy national security advisor. He spoke of his wonder at seeing hundreds of thousands of Berliners dancing on the Wall, hacking away pieces of it and knocking down whole sections with bulldozers.

"There were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets and virtually no violence," Gates said. "Within two years, the other Soviet satellites had broken free as well, and again, largely without violence. The effort to reform communism, as suspected, actually ended up sweeping it away. For its foundation was force and terror and without them, communism could not survive."

The world changed when the wall fell 20 years ago, and people are still trying to devise strategies that work in a different, but still dangerous world, the secretary said. "In many ways geopolitics are much more complex than when two nuclear-armed superpowers tested each other," he said.

Still there are lessons to be learned, and first among them is the appeal of freedom – political, economic and spiritual. "And the idea that free men and women of different cultures and countries can, for all the squabbling inherent in democracy, come together to get the big things right, and make the tough decisions to deter aggression and preserve their liberty," Gates said.

Each generation must make this choice, he said. "It is a sad reality that in our time and in the future ... there will be those who seek through violence and crimes to dominate and intimidate others," Gates said. "We saw this on (/11, and we see it today in Afghanistan, where more perseverance, more sacrifice and more patience is required to prevent the terrorists who attacked us from doing so again.

"We see it anywhere nations, movements or strongmen are tempted to believe the United States does not have the will or the means to stand by our friends, to meet our commitments and to defend our way of life," he continued.

President Reagan knew this inherently, Gates said. "Ronald Reagan was a great president who acted and planned, but most importantly, who dreamed and believed," the secretary said. "And he truly accomplished great things."

Hood, Nation Pay Tribute to Victims of Post Shooting Spree

By Andrew Evans
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 11, 2009 - The mournful and all too familiar scene of a bugler playing Taps occurred again here Tuesday as the Fort Hood community paid its respects to fallen warriors struck down last week allegedly at the hands of a lone gunman, who also happened to wear an Army uniform. "No words can ever express our sadness," Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general said before President Barack Obama took the stage. "We can never accept the loss of soldiers at home," Cone added. "Our Army family shares in the loss of your loved ones."

The general also praised the courage of the soldiers who disregarded their own safety to render aid to others at the scene.

Prior to his public address, the president spoke with many of the survivors and the families of the fallen. Speaking to an estimated 15,000 people at the memorial, Obama vowed that justice will be done in the attack that left 13 dead and 43 wounded.
"No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts," Obama said, noting that Soldiers who responded to the attack "remind us of who we are as Americans."
Although the president told the families that "no words can fill the void that has been left," he added, "your loved ones endure through the life of our nation.

"Their life's work is our security and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that is their legacy," the president said.

The Fort Hood community has suffered 545 soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cone said, "but never did we expect to pay such a high price at home."
The Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey, added, "Grieve with us. Don't grieve for us.

"Those who have fallen did so in the service of their country," he said. "They freely answered the call to serve, and they gave their lives for something that they loved and believed in."

The fallen came from 11 different states and from all walks of life to answer the call of service, Cone said, emphasizing their diversity. The deadly incident will motivate Soldiers to renew their resolve and commitment of the military and to win the nation's wars, the general said.

"May our continued service be a tribute to them," Cone said.
Like generations before them, President Obama said this generation of servicemembers has paid the price for freedom.

"Their life's work is our security and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that is their legacy."

At the conclusion of the memorial ceremony, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama laid a presidential coin before each of the 13 battlefield crosses – the helmet, boots and rifle representing each of those killed – before family members and comrades filed past.