Gates, Mullen Praise Efforts of Troops, Families, Vets
(June 1, 2011)
Defense Secretary Robert M.
Gates speaks at the annual Rolling Thunder
motorcycle ride on the National Mall May 29, 2011.
An estimated 250,000 motorcycles participate in the
weekend observance, which has evolved into a
demonstration of patriotism for soldiers and
veterans from all wars.
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2011 – Flanked by the memorials
of wars past, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates
today said he has had no greater honor than serving
and leading the U.S. military.
"I will always
keep them in my heart and my prayers as long as I
live," Gates, who retires next month, told thousands
of troops, families and veterans gathered for the
annual Memorial Day weekend Rolling Thunder
Rolling Thunder began in
1987 as a demonstration to bring awareness to the
plight of prisoners of war and those missing in
action. Today more than 250,000 motorcycles
participate in the weekend observance, which has
evolved into a
patriotic demonstration for soldiers and veterans
from all wars.
Gates praised the efforts of the organization for ensuring
the sacrifices of the military and families are recognized,
honored and never forgotten.|
"For most Americans,
Memorial Day weekend is a respite from work,” he said. “But
for those of us gathered here, it is an affirmation of our
commitment to remember those heroes who have fought and died
or who have been captured in defense of our nation -- not
just this weekend but every day of our lives."
United States has a sacred obligation to those who have
borne the heavy burden of service in the past, the secretary
"The men and women now protecting us on the
front lines gain comfort knowing that if today they are
missing or captured, we will not rest until they are
accounted for and welcomed home to the honor they deserve,
even as the conflicts recede into history," he said.
Gates said today's troops will join the likes of the
veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam as a heroic
generation that battled in far away lands to preserve the
freedom and security of the United States.
American people can never repay the debt they owe to those
who have fought and served, and to their family members who
have stood so strong at home," he said. "Your work, and the
sound of your bikes, reminds them of the costs incurred, the
blood spilt, and the enduring need to maintain a strong
military in a dangerous world."
Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen introduced Gates at
the event. The chairman, himself a Vietnam War veteran, gave
a special "shout out" to his fellow vets.
"One of the
things that I have seen over the course of these two wars
that we're in is my generation stand up in a way that many
of us were not allowed to back in Vietnam for lots of
reasons, so I'm particularly proud to be a Vietnam vet," he
Mullen said such events demonstrate to those
serving now that America is still connected to its military
"Everywhere I go these days ... the troops
ask me one thing, 'Are the American people with us?' And I
can unequivocally answer that, yes, the American people are
with our troops," he said. "Based on what I see here today
and what's going on over this weekend, that answer is very
Supporting the troops is important during
their service, but it is equally important to continue that
support after their military obligation ends, Mullen said.
"We can never forget their service,” he said. “We can
never forget them as a nation, and you and many others keep
that vigil, keep that very important part of who we are as a
nation front and center. And I will be forever grateful that
Article and by Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
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