By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON -- The men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces represent the best America has to offer, volunteering to put themselves in harm’s way to serve and protect the nation, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.
“Only 1 percent of our population today will ever wear the uniform of this nation in any of its incarnations -- soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, active, Guard or Reserve,” Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva said at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention at National Harbor, Maryland.
“That means we have to pick from the very best, because they are going to lead the very best,” he told the athletics administrators from the 1,700 colleges and universities in NACDA’s membership.
He thanked the administrators for what they do to lead, coach and bring out the best in young people. Those athletes include people who will join the military, as well as veterans, including wounded warriors, who will be welcomed back into their communities, he noted.
Strength of Wounded Warriors
Selva hailed the strength and resilience of wounded warriors.
“They are such a small part of our population, but they’re an important part of our population,” he said. “We owe them everything we can give them for what they have given us.”
Earlier this month, Selva attended the Warrior Games for wounded, ill and injured service members. He described his latest experience at the games as enlightening, saying he has a greater insight into the challenges the men and women have overcome.
“They would say learning adaptive sports actually changed their lives forever,” he said. “It’s amazing to shake their hands or give them a hug after they’ve competed.”
Upholding Oath to Constitution
The men and women of the all-volunteer force are upholding an oath to the Constitution of the United States, not to an administration, a party or a person, Selva said. “Every one of us wears the uniform of our nation because we choose to,” he added.
Service members are asked to do inherently dangerous jobs in the defense and protection of freedom and liberty, Selva told the audience. “For that, we have vowed to give our dying breath if that’s necessary,” he said.
“That 1 percent, those sons and daughters of our citizens, are the treasure of this nation,” he said. “What we owe them, which is what I spend most of my time on, are the best tools, the best education and the best training available to allow them to do the tasks they have to do.”
Selva said he means it when he says he works for the men and women in the military, not the other way around.
“I’m here to tell their story, not mine,” he said. “I’m here to remind you how great they are because they serve you, and I thank you for the privilege of being able to lead them.”