Military News

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dempsey Emphasizes Trust in West Point Commencement Address

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WEST POINT, N.Y., May 23, 2015 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reversed the first-salute tradition for new officers during the Class of 2015’s U.S. Military Academy commencement here today.

Military tradition is that newly commissioned officers give a dollar to the noncommissioned officers who render them their first salute. But today, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey gave each of the 994 new second lieutenants an autographed dollar bill to signify his trust in them.

It was a fitting tribute from one end of “the Long Gray Line” to the other. Dempsey, the military’s highest-ranking officer, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974. He retires later.

According to a Defense Department handbook titled “The Armed Forces Officer,” the first-salute tradition goes back to the founding of the U.S. Army during the Revolutionary War. At that time, officers paid NCOs to mentor them as they learned the profession of a soldier.

Symbolic Passing of the Torch

Giving an NCO a dollar for the first salute is a throwback to that tradition. It generally is given to an NCO who influenced and prepared an officer for command. It is a symbolic passing of the torch by the NCO, who transitions from mentor to subordinate. Another thread in the tradition says new officers “buy” their first salute and then earn all others through their duty performance.

The first salute “is symbolic of the respect and trust that exist between leader and led within our profession,” Dempsey said. “In return, you will give the individual who salutes you a dollar, indicating that they can count on you to earn their trust, not just today, but every day throughout your career.”

The Chairman’s First Salute

Dempsey’s first salute 41 years ago was from Army Master Sgt. Bernie Henderson, an NCO in the Military Academy’s department of military instruction. Dempsey had met him during training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and throughout his cadet career, the sergeant was someone he could turn to when he had questions about how to relate to the NCO Corps.

“He took my first salute,” the general told the graduates. “I signed a dollar bill and handed it to him. We went our separate ways.”

About a year ago, Dempsey said, he got a package in the mail containing a framed dollar bill that he had signed and a note that read, “Dear General Dempsey, I told you I would return this to you when you made general. Sorry it took me so long to send it back to you. Sincerely, Bernie Henderson.”

“That was his way of letting me know I had earned his trust,” the general said. “Among the many awards and citations I’ve received throughout my career, it is one of my most treasured possessions.”

One Important Message: Trust

Dempsey told the graduates that he wanted to deliver one important message to them: “We trust you.”

“We trust you to win our nation’s wars, to be leaders of character and competence and consequence,” he said. “We trust you to leave our profession better than you found it.

“As I shake your hand on this stage today,” he continued, “I’ll give you each a dollar bill that I’ve signed. In the years ahead, as you confront the challenges ahead, I hope you remember not who gave it to you, but what it means.”

Chairman Welcomes Tragedy Survivors to Annual Summit

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2015 – Speaking to families of fallen service members at the 21st annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors summit yesterday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he loves that the members were there, but doesn’t like how they got there.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke at the organization’s National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors for the fourth straight year as they gathered for healing and comfort during the Memorial Day weekend event.

“I love the fact that you can gather once a year and find solace, friendship and camaraderie with each other,” Dempsey told them in a Crystal City, Virginia, hotel ballroom. “There really is something about ‘good’ grief that will not only help you get through the challenges ahead, but it also help us who are your mentors and friends and admirers.” Young Survivor Introduces Chairman

Just as she has for all of Dempsey’s appearances at TAPS summits, 8-year-old Lizzie Yaggy of New Orleans, introduced the chairman.

“I feel so happy at TAPS,” she began, “because people know how I feel, and we learn ways to deal with our grief. It’s not always easy, but we are stronger because of our TAPS family.”

Then she told the audience she was there to introduce “someone we love a lot.”

“He’s the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a very important soldier,” Lizzie said. “General Dempsey always has time for us. He remembers our families; he hugs us and sings with us. He has a really great voice, and I love hearing him sing. Please welcome my friend, General Dempsey.”

The chairman noted Lizzie’s experience in introducing him. “But it’s quite a thing to be called her friend,” he added.

An Emotional Event

Dempsey is known for his propensity to break into song. “This is the event every year where I try to prove to myself that you really can sing with your heart in your throat,” he told the TAPS audience.

The first year he addressed TAPS, the chairman said, he didn’t know what to expect. When he walked in, he told the audience, he found the atmosphere “overwhelming,” and he added that it still is.

It was then that he met Lizzie, who then was 4 years old, Dempsey said. She was in a group of children gathered around him and asking him questions, he said.

“About three questions in, [Lizzie] asked me, ‘Is my daddy an angel?’ and I was stunned,” he said. “How do you answer that? I said, ‘Of course he is.’ But I broke into song. I have no idea why, except it was somewhat a survival thing for me, really. I just couldn’t deal with the emotion.”

Chairman Sings With Army’s ‘Downrange’

Keeping with his TAPS tradition, the chairman sang a series of songs yesterday, including Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up” and a medley with songs from the movies “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6.”

He was accompanied by singers with Downrange, a band of the U.S. Army Band, ‘Pershing’s Own.’”

The chairman followed up by singing “The Unicorn Song” for the children while his wife, Deanie, and Lizzie used gestures to help with the lyrics. He then answered questions from the children.

TAPS is a national organization that provides compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. It has offered support since 1994 to more than 50,000 surviving family members of U.S. fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. The organization’s resources and free help are available 24/7 online, in person, and via its helpline at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).

USO presents 'Operation That's My Ride' during Fleet Week New York

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre N. McIntyre, Fleet Week New York Public Affairs

NEW YORK (NNS) -- Members from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard participated in a USO-sponsored event to build 500 bikes for children during Fleet Week New York (FWNY), May 22.

The event, "Operation That's My Ride," focuses on building bicycles for children of service members and has been held every year since 2007. Bikes constructed today will be given to children of participating FWNY sea service members.

Jessica McAndrews, USO of Metropolitan New York, vice president of programs, services and operations, was in charge of the event.

"USO has 300 volunteers along with service members building bikes today," said McAndrews. "This is a program that is dear to my heart because it started from sending care packages to members overseas. We wanted to give something more family-related and not just for the individual member. So, we started putting together bikes for kids. Bike riding is something the whole family can do and enjoy together."

The bikes are for children ages 2 to 8 years old, and all come with a helmet and safety equipment. The bikes are built for both boys and girls.

"I know a lot of people on the ship," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Lena Ryan, assigned to USS San Antonio (LPD 17). "Building bikes and giving them to service members that have kids is important because it is something that they can enjoy while their parent is deployed. It doesn't necessarily take the place of them being gone, but it can help."

The USO is hosting numerous events for service members during FWNY and is one of the main sponsors for the weeklong celebration.

Margarita Giammanco, USO volunteer/team lead for Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), sees the value in this event and encouraged her company to fund and participate.

"I am the team lead for my company," said Giammanco. "I got them to give funds to Operation That's My Ride and my colleagues are here in support (who are) building bikes with me. This is an opportunity of a lifetime to support the military and the families for their many sacrifices. We are excited to give away these gifts to the children, and hopefully open a doorway to a lifetime of fun."

FWNY, now in its 27th year, is the city's time-honored celebration of the sea services, and an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. Fleet Week New York has been held nearly every year since 1984.