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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks to Military Personnel and Their Families in Frankfurt, Federal Republic of Germany

1989-05-31

Thank you very much for that welcome back. Some of you may have all been around here a couple years ago, and my only regret is, I won't get to go running on the track here this time. [Laughter] But I was here about 3 years ago as Vice President, and things have changed since then. Now, there's a new number one: the Rhein-Main Rockets. [Applause] But Secretary [of State] Baker and I and General Scowcroft [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs] and our Chief of Staff, John Sununu, and Barbara and all the rest of our traveling squad are just delighted to be here, heading off to London right now and then -- eat your hearts out -- the good old U.S. of A. on Friday afternoon.

But let me be serious for just a minute and say that it is an honor to stand before an audience of men and women who serve the Armed Forces of the greatest country on the face of the Earth. And for over four decades now -- NATO having celebrated its 40th anniversary just 2 or 3 days ago -- people like you have left home, often family and loved ones, and you've served as guardians to this gateway to freedom. And your presence here inspires a deep admiration and gratitude -- certainly from me personally, that is -- we saw at that NATO meeting from people all around the world. And so, thank you for all you're doing to keep freedom secure. You've been directly responsible, each in his own way, for the longest peace that Europe has known in centuries -- over 40 years of peace. And that's an achievement that the world now applauds and that history will honor.

You know, people talk often about the ``right stuff,'' but the heroism and the humanity of American soldiers at Rhein-Main and other bases are the stuff of legend. Your dedication, I believe, is constant and enduring, day after day. And I've been told about some instances where your own humanity touches the lives of so many.

This is a special place, a place whose spirit of service reaches back to the tense days 40 years ago of the Berlin airlift, when a pilot named Gail Halverson, during his repeated runs, parachuted bags of candy to the children of Berlin. They called him Uncle Wiggley-Wings or the Chocolate Bomber, and he was a man who brought kindness to the cruelest of times.

And standing among you today is his son, Major Brad Halverson, who organized the Armenian airlift -- children injured in that devastating earthquake. And I was told by a high-ranking Soviet official that that outreach to the people of Armenia said as much to the Soviet Union as any message that any President could possibly send. And there's Captain Dawn Oerichbauer, the medical crew director, who said, ``The whole mission was worth it when I saw the hope and the hurt in the faces of the children.''

And I know that also with us today is Major Bob Anderson, chief of the mental health clinic, a quiet hero who in his own way has helped so many on this base deal with the aftermath of terrorist threats. He's put lives back together, warded off the chill of fear.

And I single out a few because they represent the many. Here at Rhein-Main, with lifesaving medical evacuation missions, triumphant hostage returns, the normal day-to-day mission of flying in the crowded skies of Europe -- for you, heroism with a human touch is really the meaning of this mission. And you've seen the tears of those devastated by tragedy, and you've seen the tears of joy stream down the faces of those returning to freedom and of those who love them. And you've performed that everyday acts of vigilance that make preparedness possible. I think of all the security people -- some guy out guarding a C - 5 all night, supply clerk makes calls all day to find a part that's needed, flight-line attendant deicing planes at 4 a.m. on days something unlike this one.

And just this year, as NATO celebrates its 40th anniversary, we begin to sense new opportunities for coexistence. We may be seeing the dawning of a new age, but the reasons why you are here have not changed. There've been signs of progress from the Soviet Union; and though we hope for more, the nations of the alliance still face a Soviet Union with preponderant and awesome military power. And your presence in West Germany, your contribution to the security of Western Europe, is absolutely essential.

And I might add that I left Germany today feeling that the relations with the Federal Republic and the United States, our bilateral relations, have never been better. And I want to thank each one of you for the way you interact with our German friends. It does show the best side of America to the people in the Federal Republic of Germany. And I know that it's not easy serving away from home, but because of you and the sacrifices, our world is indeed safer and more secure.

You know, in a letter to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson once wrote: ``I've seen enough of one war never to wish to see another.'' And out there today, I know, are a number of children, some of them third generation of Americans stationed here at Rhein-Main, who have never seen war, and I hope they never do. The power to wage war is the power to prevent it, and that's our mission here. And we must remain prepared for war even as we work hard for peace. And believe me, we will strive hard to achieve the lasting peace.

So, carry on. Thank you all. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:43 p.m. on the tarmac at Rhein-Main Air Force Base. Following his remarks, the President traveled to London.

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