HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
DUNCAN HUNTER – CHAIRMAN
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Josh Holly (202) 225-2539
May 22, 2006
Tribute to America’s Finest
By: U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
I am honored to offer my thoughts, words and praise on behalf of all the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who serve our nation so capably and selflessly. As our country celebrates the memory of so many who have given the ultimate sacrifice, we must remember that it is our veterans and all those who serve in the Armed Forces who safeguard the freedoms we cherish and love. Indeed, many are today confronting terrorists on foreign soil to ensure that we don’t have to fight them here. And they deserve our wholehearted support, respect and appreciation.
When Tom Brokaw labeled our forefathers who followed the American flag into the battles of World War II, “the Greatest Generation,” he had not met the men and women who wear the uniform today. Their fight against terrorism has been dangerous and difficult. From firefights in Fallujah, Tikrit, Baghdad, Mosul and countless other hotspots in Iraq, to mountain operations in Afghanistan, to the Philippines, Bosnia and Korea, to the air lift, sea lift, training, force security, and air power operations, these soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines have confronted challenges in the war on terror that our forefathers never imagined. They are truly ’s greatest generation.
As Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I have had the honor and privilege to meet some of them while in theatre or during my official duties. During my last visit to a few months ago, I met Command Sergeant Major Stephen Blake of the 101st Airborne Division at the Rakkasan Armament Program Facility at Camp Speicher in Tikrit. He showed our congressional delegation his soldiers’ latest innovations to protect troops from roadside bombs. We saw how they welded additional steel plating on the newest fully-armored Humvee (the M1114), and five-ton trucks—so skillfully and seamlessly that the vehicles still looked like they’d just rolled off the factory floor. Blake said that some call such field handiwork “hillbilly armor.” But being from Appalachia , the enterprising soldier told us he prefers to call it “Appalachian armor” instead. Whatever you call it, Stephen Blake and his team are making soldiers safer—and even more effective—with their own dedication and innovation.
I saw those same qualities among the soldiers who let me ride in their Buffalo, a heavily-armored vehicle equipped with a camera and long probe, while they deftly demonstrated how they locate and disarm improvised explosive devices, the deadliest threats to our troops today. In the middle of the desert, I saw true professionalism and tireless dedication in five other young troops who were standing next to a Humvee mangled by a makeshift bomb. They radiated calmness as they discussed their next mission as if it were a trip to a football game.
This is all in a day’s work for our troops. And it’s all part of the larger job of building a free . The work is painstaking and tough, but our troops do it knowing that, because of ’s help, terrorists and insurgents have been unable to discourage Iraqis from building their own democratic institutions. Our uniformed men and women take obvious pride in being part of a process that, in a relatively short time, has produced an Iraqi constitution and national elections that drew even more citizens into Iraq’s democratic process. And now, we see ’s new government taking shape – Prime Minister al- Maliki has now selected his cabinet. ’s political system may be fragile and it may still move slowly, but our troops will tell you that what’s important is that it is moving.
I once heard about a U.S. Army brigade commander in who had a superb explanation of today’s mission for his soldiers. He told them that what they and their fellow Americans are doing in and today is as important as what their grandfathers did in and in World War II, or what their fathers did in or Europe during the Cold War. It’s true, of course. And while much work remains, we can see that their efforts offer a means for significant positive change in the Middle East … which is nothing short of remarkable.
As the son of a World War II veteran, the father of a Marine who served in , and as a veteran myself, I know personally of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make on a daily basis. They are ’s finest, and their mission, like the earlier ones that were fought on the shores of Normandy or on islands in the Pacific, is a noble one. is grateful to them for their professionalism, their courage, their tenacity, their dedication, and their service.
And I salute and commend them for a job well done.
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, recently spent three days in Iraq with the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), 101st Airborne Division, 4th Infantry Division, and Multi-National Forces Iraq on fact-finding mission.