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Public Papers - 1993

Remarks at an Armed Forces Salute to the President in Arlington, Virginia


Thank you very, very much, Secretary Cheney, Dick, my dear friend. I am honored by this salute; very, very grateful to all who participated in it, these same troops, many of whom have done so much to welcome distinguished visitors to the United States and in every way served their country with distinction.

But you guys have got it backwards. I came over here to thank all of you and to salute the members, past and present, of our Armed Forces: those who have given their lives, those who have served so honorably and so well, and those who serve today around the globe to keep the vigil of peace and to hold out the loving arms of the United States to those who are hurting.

Secretary Cheney has served with great distinction. I asked him to leave the United States Congress to take on this tremendous responsibility, and he's performed with great, great service to his country. He's done it all with excellence, dedication, and commitment.

As to General Powell, I just can't think of words to describe how strongly I feel about his service to his country and his leadership. And I am grateful to you, Colin. And may I single out the Secretaries, the Service Secretaries; and of course, the Joint Chiefs with whom I've worked very, very closely. I am grateful to all of you for your leadership and for your sound advice. And each of you should be proud because you were the key to the success of our military missions in Panama, in the Persian Gulf, in Somalia, and then in so many other places around the world. So, thank you all very, very much.

Just yesterday, we showed Saddam Hussein once again that he cannot violate international law with impunity. And people asked me about the mission. And I said the skies are safer and the message is clearer today because of the courage of those young air crews that did the Lord's work yesterday. We are grateful to each and every one of them. I congratulate General Hoar, all the commanders involved, all who laid their lives on the line. And once again, our military proved what we all know: They are absolutely the finest in the entire world.

America must always be mindful of the fact that our military is not simply the sum of our weapons or the state of our technology. What makes our military truly outstanding is the quality of its leadership, the quality of its training, the quality of its people, from the youngest soldier to the most decorated fighter.

As we enter the 1990's, we can be proud of what we've done to shape a new world. But while we're safer and certainly more secure with the end of the cold war, this new world will almost surely have its share of uncertainties and dangers. It is essential that we keep a strong defense. We must not make reckless cuts in defense.

We owe our victory in the cold war in no small part to our people in uniform. The men and women in our Armed Forces have demonstrated their ability to master the challenges of modern warfare, humanitarian aid, and peacekeeping, to do the hard work of freedom.

There is no doubt that the All Volunteer Force is one of the true success stories of modern day America. This did not simply happen; it is the result of the military's commitment to education and training. Out of the military's culture of merit and competition have emerged hundreds of thousands of highly skilled men and women brimming with justifiable self-confidence. And what they possess is a special kind of discipline: a willingness to accept direction, a willingness to accept responsibility. And together, discipline and confidence provide the basis for winning, for getting the job done.

And finally, let me speak not as President and not as Commander in Chief, but as a citizen, as an American. I look back on my service to this great Nation with pride. I think my 3 years in the Navy did more to shape my life than anything that's followed on. And I'm very proud to stand with you all here today, honored that we share this sacred bond of duty, honor, country.

Thank you for this salute, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:36 p.m. at Fort Myer. In his remarks, he referred to Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, USMC, commander in chief, U.S. Central Command.

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