Odierno receives Marshall Foundation’s Andrew J. Goodpaster Award
Some have questioned the dedication of the millennial generation to live up to the ideals of the so-called "greatest generation" of World War II veterans, said the Army chief of staff.
But over the last 14 years of war, Gen. Ray Odierno said he’s watched this younger generation "do whatever is necessary to protect this nation," and their selfless service has "inspired me every single day to do whatever I can to ensure they’re able to do their jobs and whatever we ask them to do."
Odierno spoke after receiving the Andrew J. Goodpaster Award for "exhibiting great courage, selfless service, patriotism and leadership."
The award was presented by the George C. Marshall Foundation, Dec.5 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. D.C.
Goodpaster was the supreme allied commander, Europe. Marshall was the 15th Army chief of staff.
Presenting the award was the 32nd chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., president of the Association of the United States Army, and former National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft USAF, Ret.
Scowcroft’s Army connection is graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in 1947, and receiving a commission in the Army Air Forces.
He was the first recipient of the Goodpaster Award. Sullivan received it in 2012.
Odierno made it clear who he thought deserved the award.
"This award is not about me. It’s about the more than one million soldiers who earn this award. It’s their dedication," he said.
He then described how he’d watched many who were severely injured.
"The only thing they wanted to do was to go back and serve their country," he said. "I’ve watched so many who’ve done five, six, seven, eight tours of duty in combat and lead our soldiers, because they think it’s the right thing to do.
"That’s the honor of serving in our Army today. The honor of leading these young men and women who will do whatever is necessary to ensure our safety and our way of life continues," he said.
Odierno also had words of praise for soldiers who led the way, setting examples for today’s soldiers to follow: Men like Marshall and Goodpaster who "represented what’s best about our country; selfless leaders who put their country before themselves."
Marshall, who led the Army as chief of staff during World War II, developed the post-war Marshall Plan, which helped Western Europe recover from the ravages of war and become prosperous and vital allies of the U.S.
Goodpaster was wounded during World War II, and could have retired to civilian life, Odierno said. But he served another 30 years.
A few years after Goodpaster retired in 1974, there was an honor scandal at the U.S. Military Academy, Odierno said.
"They asked him to come out of retirement and take a reduction in grade to become the superintendent of West Point during those real critical times," Odierno said, referring to Goodpaster.
Adding, "This is a leader of great character who was trusted and respected by all. They needed that individual to come back and rebuild the trust. He accepted the challenge and the temporary demotion to lieutenant general. And, he said, when asked about returning to duty: ‘It’s a point of principle and a point of honor.’"
West Point, "the greatest leadership and educational institute in the world, was put back on track because of his efforts and dedication," Odierno added.
Odierno also had words of praise for his own mentors and those he considered personal friends, including Scowcroft, Sullivan, former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody, USA, Ret. , and West Point classmate Col. Robert McClure, USA, Ret., president of the West Point Association of Graduates.
All were present at the ceremony and had words of praise for Odieno’s leadership and service, comparing him to some of the Army’s greatest leaders.
And finally, Odierno thanked his wife Linda for her selfless dedication.
"She’s always been there right by my side, no matter what I do," he said.
Adding, she’s "always supportive. She was the one who encouraged me to do the best I could, while raising three children. She dedicated herself not only to them, but to all our soldiers and their families. I couldn’t have done it without her."
(Editor’s note: This story is based on an article by David Vergun, Army News Service.)