Veterans day: a time of reflection and remembrance.
I. Thank you, Jan [Jan Scruggs, President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund]. Admiral Moritsugu [Acting Surgeon General], and fellow speakers, it is an honor to be with you.
Thank you most deeply [to servicemembers here today, especially those recuperating at Walter Reed Hospital, our specially honored guests.]
To all veterans here, and all Active, National Guard and Reserve personnel, Thank You. Thank you for your Service.
And with greatest warmth, Thank You to the families and loved ones of veterans past and present.
II. This Memorial is nearing its 25th Birthday Year, since dedication on November 13, 1982. It holds a place in our Nation's heart. The donors, designer Maya Lin, the Memorial Fund and Board Members, deserve our gratitude.
And as well, Senator John Warner of Virginia and his colleague the late esteemed Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland who rallied Congressional support to bring the dream alive.
There is one builder who bears special mention today. Army General Michael Shannon Davison, upon his retirement, became a lead volunteer and fundraiser. Just about every General and Admiral got his letters, and many generously gave. His counsel was a great compass in getting this Memorial built.
In September I attended his funeral at West Point, just steps from the grave of my father, Colonel Edward Wynne, U.S. Air Force. It is fitting to recall General Davison's devotion to his troops, veterans, and our Nation.
III. So, today is very much a day for Remembrance and Reflection. Truly this Memorial speaks just that. It lists those who fell in the Vietnam War in the order they were taken from us. A sacred part of a person is his or her name. Citizens of Canada and the Philippines are named, and eight valiant women, nurses, seven Army and one Air Force. There are Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and Airmen.
The last name is an Airman, First Lieutenant Richard Vandegeer, on the West Wall, at the vertex, juxtaposed with the first name, completing if you will a circle of the names.
The Wall is a true mirror, reflecting color and faces, and your own hand as you touch a name. Poets know that the true mirror has power to stir us.
For within each day, the names are alphabetical. The Story in the Wall is a sequence of days.
This means that those killed in the same incident are within a hand's reach on the Wall. This is so with my brother, Major Patrick Wynne, killed along with Colonel Laurence Herbert Golberg, in a fighter over North Vietnam on August 8, 1966, the day I reported into the Air Force after graduating from West Point. Patrick is buried at the Air Force Academy, an honored member of the Class of 1963.
IV. This Wall unfolds the story of those who fought in Vietnam, but also links us to all generations of American warriors. The East Wall points to the Washington Monument, and the West Wall to the Lincoln Memorial and Memorial Bridge.
At the Bridge entrance stands the great statues of "Valor" and "Sacrifice." Across the Bridge you enter Arlington Cemetery and the grounds of the Marine Memorial, where on Iwo Jima they raised the "Flag of Our Fathers", and of the brand new Memorial in our Capital, the Air Force Memorial.
The new Memorial has engraved on it the words "Sacrifice" and "Valor", a fitting complement to the statues of Memorial Bridge. It has three spires that soar upwards, expressing great aspirations.
V. As Air Force Secretary I think daily of our forebears, and the legacy of Sacrifice and Valor. I think of friends of youth named on this Wall. I join with all of us today in wanting to fulfill the hopes that they held for our Country.
The memories and roots I have touched upon drive me. As Air Force Secretary, that translates into Three Equally
Important Abiding Concerns:
One is Strategic Strength. The Air Force is the Strategic Lead for America. We give our President Global Reach, Global Vigilance and Global Power to shield the Nation in Air, Space and Cyberspace. While fully in combat in the War on Terror, the Strategic Mission is unrelenting.
I have also the care of our Airmen and their families. We are the technological cutting edge of our military, and our uniformed personnel and civilian professionals make that edge. I owe them and their families the best of leadership and care.
And I watch over the American fighter in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many are Airmen. In the Air Force we have been at war for 16 years. There are teenagers in Air Force families with parents who have been in constant exposure to enemy fire their whole young life. Many Airmen fight right from the doorstep in the U.S., taking huge C-17's and C-5's of the Air Bridge into the War Zone.
The daily life of the groundfighter is always before me. With our Chief of Staff, General Buzz Moseley, I keep a constant eye on the combat airpower we put on-call for groundfighters. I focus on ways to keep them from harm's way, like using airlift in lieu of deadly road convoys.
VI. And with General Moseley I promise this: every American fighter who is lost, wounded, crashed or parachuted into emergency conditions has the might of the entire US. Air Force to find them, protect them, rescue them, and take them to hospitals and the heart of their family.
It is my privilege to serve this country, and this Air Force, and to stand in ranks with the veterans, and the warfighters of each Service.
May God continue to bless you and this Great Nation.
I Salute you All.
Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne
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|Author:||Wynne, Michael W.|
|Publication:||Air Force Speeches|
|Date:||Nov 11, 2006|
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