Making the grade.
Remarks at the Air Force Honor Guard graduation, Boiling Air Force Base, D. C., Oct. 7, 2005
I am honored to be with you today to celebrate your accomplishments as you join a team of elite professionals who epitomize integrity, service before self, and excellence in all they do.
Here at Boiling, the new program, "Making the Grade," is about focusing on attitude, appearance and ability everyday to achieve an "A" in the eyes of those being served. As Honor Guard members you can never afford to settle for less.
Often you will be the one who leaves a lasting impression on a family or an organization..... Every time it has to be the best we can deliver.
Each of us who wear the uniform of the United States Armed Forces represent America, and more specifically, the freedom that defines us as a nation.
As members of the Air Force Honor Guard, you represent those of us who stand tall for freedom, so much so we are willing to lay down our lives on the battlefields of the world if necessary.
Each time you carefully don your uniform with your sharp creases, impeccable shine and meticulous attention to detail; you pay homage to the brave men and women before us who gave their last measure of strength answering the call of freedom.
You represent men like Lt. Mike Christian, a young naval officer, who while in a Vietnamese POW camp was severely beaten after guards discovered a hand-made flag sewn in the lining of his shirt. He had secretly crafted the flag with scrap material and a bamboo needle.
Each day, he and fellow POWs would hang the shirt on the wall and recite the pledge of allegiance.
The night of his beating--he began sewing again, this time with eyes almost swollen shut from his wounds. He did so because he knew how important it was for the prisoners to be able to pledge their allegiance to our flag and our country.
You represent Airmen like Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. Jason died in a firefight on Roberts Ridge in Afghanistan. He was a pararescueman, and one of three Air Force Airmen on an Army helicopter going in to locate Navy SEALS. The helicopter was shot down, and Airman Cunningham and his surviving crew were surrounded by enemy fire.
Jason continued to pull out his wounded comrades and drag them away from the helicopter, until he received a fatal wound. Army Rangers who were there with him say that even as he was dying, he instructed them on what to do for the others so they wouldn't die too.
You also represent more than 1,900 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who have given their lives, and over 14,000 who have been wounded in action while supporting the Global War on Terror.
And you symbolize the ten of thousands more who are today standing in the gap for freedom around the world.
You represent us in the best of times and the most difficult. From promotions to retirements to funerals, the honor guard instills the traditional pride America's military men and women deserve.
As the days, weeks and months go by, don not become numb by the repetition, or lose sight of how vital and important you and the duty you perform are.
You are part of some of the most memorable events in our lives. You'll never know how many photos of you performing your mission will grace the scrap books around our Air Force. You are clearly woven into the fabric of our lives and our service to this great nation.
As you carry the American Flag proudly in the times of celebration, and somberly in times of sorrow, remember that it is the same flag of freedom that was worth a beating to Mike Christian, and is worth the sacrifice our men and women make today to protect the freedom we hold so dear.
During those times when you look into the eyes of a grieving spouse or parent, as they are handed the flag on behalf of a grateful nation; remember, as you stand before them, you represent the freedom that so many have willingly shed their blood to preserve.
As I look at you, I know that you will represent us well. I see all that is great about America--patriots with diverse backgrounds and cultures, brought together by a desire to serve our nation.
You have already "Made the Grade" by being selected to serve in this prestigious position with our Air Force Honor Guard. Now it's up to you to keep up that "grade point average."
Always remember it's about, attitude, appearance and ability. Don't settle for less than an "A" in each of these areas.
Congratulations again to each of you, we thank you for your exceptional service and wish you all the best as you join the ranks of this great team.
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|Publication:||Air Force Speeches|
|Date:||Oct 7, 2005|
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