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The flag of feedom.

Congratulations to each of you today as you join a team of elite professionals who epitomize integrity, service above self, and excellence. You should be extremely proud of the accomplishments that have brought you to this graduation today.

As you prepare to embrace your new role, I'd like to share with you some thoughts on this duty you've volunteered for, and the impact you will have on those around you.

Each of us that wear the uniform of the U. S. Armed Forces represents America, and more specifically, the freedom that defines us as a nation.

Sept. 11 changed our world forever, and forced every American and every country to choose a side--no more business as usual, no more sitting on the fence. Either you were for freedom and those willing to fight for it, of you were against it. As members of the Air Force Honor Guard, you represent those of us for it, 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 you who gave their last measure of strength answering the call of Freedom.

You represent men like Mike Christian, 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, because he knew how important it was for the prisoners to be able to pledge their allegiance to our flag and country.

You represent airmen like Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. Jason died in a firefight on Robert's Ridge in Afghanistan. He was a Pararescuemen, and one of three Air Force guys on an Army helicopter going in to locate Navy SEALs. His 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 himself.

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 the thousands of men and women who are standing in the gap today for freedom around the world--Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, South Korea, Uzbekistan--the list goes on and on.

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, worth laying down his life for Jason Cunningham, and is worth the sacrifice our men and women make today to protect the freedom we hold so dear.

During those times when you're the one to look into the eyes of a grieving spouse or parent, to hand them that flag and speak of a grateful nation; remember that as you do, you represent the freedom and sacrifice that so many have willingly shed their blood to preserve.

As I look out into the audience, I know that you will represent us well. You truly are what is great about America--patriots with diverse backgrounds and cultures, brought together by a desire to serve our nation.

Congratulations again to each of you, and God bless you as you join the ranks of this great team.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray

Remarks at the Air Force Honor Guard Graduation Ceremony, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D. C., Sept. 26, 2003
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Title Annotation:Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Gerald R. Murray
Publication:Air Force Speeches
Article Type:Transcript
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 26, 2003
Words:648
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