Back when I was in basic training, I remember one of the first times I had some time off. I decided to head over to the base theater and catch a movie. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the film that was playing was Patton, the classic movie featuring George C. Scott as the tough, crusty military genius. In one scene in the film, Patton asks his troops to do the impossible. Having just finished a major fight, he then asks them to walk over 100 miles in 48 hours to Bastogne to put an end to the progress of the enemy and save the war.
His troops walked in snow for 100 miles and engaged the enemy without any time for sleep or rest. I can still hear Patton’s words as he spoke of his soldiers with pride, “No other army in the world could have done that. God, I'm proud of these men!”
Well, you are doing the modern version of that feat. You are pulling up and traveling halfway around the world for our freedom. I want you to know I am proud of you. Wyoming is proud of you. America is proud of you.
You represent the spirit of that elite group, and no one could do what you have been called to do. I am very proud of you for answering your nation’s call. You have placed your jobs, your daily routine, and your life on hold so you could go halfway around the world on short notice to take on a very difficult and dangerous mission. You are taking a stand to defend the cause of freedom for all of us. You are going all those extra miles to guarantee a better future for your children and your families.
As I think of you and your families, I remember spending time with the wives of some soldiers who were in Iraq at the height of the hostilities. Their husbands’ departure dates had been extended and they would be coming home later than expected. I thought I would hear some complaints and anger expressed about the unfairness of it all but that’s not what I heard. Instead, I heard an uncommon amount of understanding about the decision that had been made and the reasons for it.
I spoke to one spouse who explained to me that if there were troops who had my husband’s back, I wouldn’t want them pulled out until some others could take their place. It was then that I learned that military families have a love for our country and an understanding of the job that has to be done that is unmatched. They have a sense of patriotism, an inner strength and a firmness of resolve that will never be equaled – and thank God for it.
I want to specifically mention and single out your families, to make sure they know how much we appreciate the sacrifices they will be called on to make while you are gone. They will be the ones who will have to face the everyday problems and challenges that come with day to day life without a key member of the family team to rely on. There will be colds and flu, tummy aches and bruised knees, things to fix, hurt feelings and the feeling of loneliness that comes from having a father, mother, sister, brother or loved one who is far from home. It is an ache that will not be eased or lifted until you come home again.
Our military is the envy of the whole world. You are the envy of the whole world. Of course, they think if they had enough money they could have the same kind of equipment and be as good. They think if they had the technology we have they could be as good. They are wrong. It's you, the individuals who make up our military that make the difference. It's you and the spirit you take with you.
Some people, he would say, live their whole lives never knowing if they have been able to make a difference in the world around them. You won’t have that problem. You will see the difference you have been able to make every day in the faces of those you have rescued from the clutches of tyranny and oppression. You will see it every day in the hope that those who lived in fear now have for the future. You will see it in the eyes of those who now have a say in their shared destiny as a nation.