Two events from this month helped clarify my understanding of why we are the finest Navy in the world. First, two weeks ago I had the privilege of honoring the Military Times Service Members of the Year. Second, my visit to the USS George H. W. Bush earlier this month reminded me our folks “operating forward” are some of the most dedicated and brightest that America has to offer. Every day our Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen and Marines are doing amazing things out there to protect and serve our nation.
Annually, the Military Times hosts an award ceremony for the Service Members of the Year. The five winners, “Everyday Heroes”, are service members who demonstrate pride, dedication and courage far beyond what is expected. These courageous warriors show concern for their fellow service members, their community and the country they serve. The candidates recognized are special because their nominations are submitted by parents, peers, supervisors, commanding officers—the people who know them best.
It was a privilege to take part in an evening to recognize the service and the sacrifice of these fine young men and women. These five individuals are all pretty special. They’ve continued to put service before themselves while on and off duty, stepping up to do such things as volunteer in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, teaching math and English to children in Afghanistan, raising awareness for Gold Star families, building homes with Habitat for Humanity and working with wounded warriors. The summaries of their actions would astound most people. Their actions certainly impressed me.
However, the impressive actions of our service members do not surprise me. These individuals represent a really special quality of all our service members, a selfless dedication to service that our forces embody. Our service members represent the face of the United States around the globe, to the leadership overseas, and to citizens overseas. Our service members build the trust that enables the partnership that we need so very much to continue doing what we do around the world to ensure security. They are our ambassadors and they do such a marvelous job. I personally hear it again and again as I travel around. I know my colleagues would say exactly the same thing. They assure our allies of America’s resolve.
When I was out on the USS George H. W. Bush watching our unmanned aircraft come in, I walked around and met about 100 Sailors. Seven of those Sailors were from other countries. They weren’t even born here but they sure wanted to come and serve in America. We are so privileged to have that. It is truly reflective of the rich heritage of opportunity here in America, and the diversity of this great nation and our military — which is one of our greatest strengths and a strategic imperative.
Our men, women and most importantly military families understand what it means to serve. They deploy abroad for months at a time, and then they turn right around and they readily go back over and they serve. You can fill in the blank of the recent operation where we picked up and went somewhere. They are ready to go right away. They’ve sacrificed birthdays, anniversaries, and family milestones, all in the name of service. They immediately respond to crisis with resilience and endurance.
Today, we have the finest fighting force the United States has ever fielded. Our power comes from our folks, the attributes and their skill which they bring and we refine- the leaders that help organize, train, and equip them. But what really defines the strength of our force is the dedication and commitment of those that choose to serve. And my experience has been their consistent and infectious optimism.They always know they can get the job done and they have again and again. They serve to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and they do that so readily, and they’re literally one in a hundred- they represent about one percent of our society.
As we reflect on the challenges today, look around the world, and look at the budgetary challenges that we face, we say how are we going to do all this? Technology and all being what it is, our advantage lies in the resolve and pride of our service members– our people, our all-volunteer force. This month is the 40th anniversary of our all- volunteer force military, and I’m so proud to represent the 320,000 active-duty, about 110, 000 reservists, and 200,000 Navy civilians in your U.S. Navy.
Whenever I meet stellar folks around the fleet, or get to honor our service members with awards, I’m reminded of a movie I used to love called “The Bridges of Toko-Ri”. It’s about a novel that James Michener wrote, a bridge in Toko-Ri, North Korea — Korea at the time — during the war. We were constantly trying to knock out this bridge because it was a logistics bridge for the enemy. It was in a steep ravine protected by several anti-aircraft guns. We lost several pilots. It was a story of courage, of sacrifice, and of resilience as folks went in to rescue them. As it was ending, there was an admiral on the ship’s bridge, the 7th Fleet Commander, he’s out on his aircraft carrier, and he turns to his colleague and he says, “Where do we get such men?”
Well, every day, as I think about our brave and courageous service members I ask myself, “Where do we get such people?” The answer: we get them from the United States of America. I am truly proud and grateful for their service and to serve with them.
JONATHAN W. GREENERT
ADMIRAL, U.S. NAVY
For more information on the 2013 Military Times Service Members of the year: http://projects.militarytimes.com/smoy