November 16, 2009
Since the beginning of this month, we have most certainly demonstrated in many ways an Army Strong and an Army Resilient.
I had already penned a 2009 Veterans’ Day message for our AUSA President’s Corner when the breaking news hit of the tragic shootings at the Readiness Center at Fort Hood. I had to pause and digest the terrible news as it came in on 5 November and then reorder my thoughts for this message. Let me share with you my reflections since that terrible day and my experiences as I have traveled across the Army and AUSA this first half of November 2009.
During this period I had the honor and privilege of attending the memorial services at Fort Hood; participating in and speaking at a celebration for veterans in Middlesex County, Connecticut; speaking at a veterans’ home in California; participating in an honors visit to a veterans’ cemetery (also in California) with the Commanding General of the National Training Center, BG Robert B. Abrams; speaking to our High Desert chapter at the NTC; and visiting with the troops from 4th Infantry Division, who were prepping for deployment at Fort Irwin. On these travels, I touched and was touched by our members, Army families, veterans, American citizens and, of course, our Soldiers and their leaders.
What I experienced and saw in earlier visits around the Army, before the murders at Fort Hood, was an Army Strong. Since the tragic event of 5 November, I have seen an Army Resilient, both at Fort Hood and elsewhere. All members of the Army family (including a Gold Star mother I encountered in Nevada) have demonstrated honor, respect and the resilience required to get on with the mission and with their lives. At the memorial service held at Fort Hood, our Army Chief of Staff, General Casey, said, “The Army and Fort Hood are no strangers to pain and tragedy and loss. As many of us know personally and all too well, that’s been the case for the last eight years. But we are an Army that has drawn strength from that adversity. So we grieve as an Army family . . . as we wrap our arms around the families of our fallen comrades, I would say to you all: ‘Grieve with us . . . don’t grieve for us. Those who have fallen did so in the service of their country . . . they freely answered the call to serve . . . and they gave their lives for something they loved and believed in.’”
President Obama also delivered stirring words at the ceremony. “Your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life’s work is our security and the freedom that we all 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.”
On that same day, Vice President Joe Biden and Army Vice Chief of Staff GEN Pete Chiarelli honored seven fallen Stryker Soldiers at Fort Lewis. And there, as at Fort Hood, our Army was strong and resilient.
This strength and resilience was evident throughout the travels I’ve described. I sense it daily in our Soldiers, their leaders, our Army families, our Army civilians, our veterans and our war survivors. The strength and care that our members and chapters have shown in support of Soldiers and families—not only at Fort Hood and Fort Lewis but coast to coast, across our Army and AUSA—is tremendous.
What I do know precisely from my travels is that we, the Army, after such tragic events, react with care, concern and love for the fallen and their families. We bury our dead with full honors; we care for the wounded; we reach out to families and survivors; and our chain of command demonstrates superbly that it is also a chain of care and concern. And amidst the grief, the Army family and its leadership “get on with it.”
Thank you for your energy, compassion and the love that you have demonstrated in countless ways over the last eight years.
As we approach our national celebration of Thanksgiving, thank yourselves for your passion and the selfless service you give to our Army. That is the strength of America.