Sunday, July 13, 2008

Gates Speaks of Troops' Courage, Dedication, Patriotism

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates delivered a tribute to servicemembers' courage, dedication, adaptability and patriotism to the Daughters of the American Revolution's Continental Congress, yesterday.

"Whenever I meet with troops, I am impressed by their resilience, their good humor, their courage, and their determination in the face of personal sacrifice," Gates said to the more than 3,000 members of the group in Constitution Hall, here. Gates was the featured speaker at the organization's national security night.

It is important to remember that, when Americans talk about national security, it is the men and women in uniform who make the discussion possible, Gates said. Servicemembers carry out the policies of the United States, and they "shoulder the burdens of this complex and dangerous world," he said.

The war on terror is the longest war the United States has fought with an all-volunteer force since the American Revolution. "Frankly, our military, our government and our country were not prepared for such a long and grueling conflict," he said. "Despite this, our troops have persevered and overcome incredible obstacles.

"Often, they live in Spartan quarters, work in combat theaters and face the uncertainties of non-traditional war in an era when any mistake -- even the perception of a mistake -- can be transmitted around the globe in seconds.

American troops serve not only as warriors, but as diplomats and development officers as well, the secretary said. "In the face of these challenges, they have maintained a steely resolve," Gates said.

And they are staying with the missions. All services are meeting or exceeding their recruiting and retention targets. "High retention rates continue to be nothing short of remarkable, especially when considering that those most likely to re-enlist are those most often deployed," Gates said.

The courage of those serving cannot be doubted, Gates told the group. The country has awarded five Medals of Honor; 38 Distinguished Service Crosses, Navy Crosses or Air Forces Crosses; nearly 700 Silver Stars, and almost 5,000 Bronze Stars with valor devices, the secretary said. "Each represents a story of bravery and sacrifices so great they are almost impossible to comprehend -- from men and women who have fallen on grenades to save comrades to others who have sprinted through firefights to save a buddy," he said.

The troops and their commanders exhibit adaptability that is key to winning a counterinsurgency fight. In 2006, coalition forces forecast a bleak future for Anbar province in Iraq. Al-Qaida in Iraq just about ruled the province's capital of Ramadi. "When all hope seemed lost in Anbar, the unit in charge of Ramadi dramatically changed its tactics -- moving out of heavily fortified bases and into combat outposts in the middle of the fight," Gates said. "Through heavy fighting, through great sacrifices, they won Ramadi back from al-Qaida. Many of the tactics successfully employed there would be replicated across Iraq."

Gates also spoke of the sacrifices military families make, calling them the "unsung heroes" of the war on terror. Families, too, are affected by multiple deployments around the world. "Words cannot describe how grateful our troops are for their wives and husbands, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers -- the network of love and support that carries on in their absence," he said.

Those wounded in the nation's service deserve the best the country can give, Gates said. He said the American people may disagree about the war, but they still support the troops. "You ... see it in efforts by the Congress to make sure our wounded have all they need to make the transition to the next phase of their life," he said.

Americans also see this appreciation through bipartisan legislation President Bush signed last week that greatly increases the benefits of the G.I. Bill for troops and their families.

Gates said it is "deeds, not words" that count. American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are performing those deeds to ensure the nation's safety and protecting U.S. allies around the world. "In both principles and deeds, our men and women in uniform embody the best our country has to offer," he said. "We are truly blessed to have among us citizens of such tremendous and awe-inspiring courage."

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Friday, July 11, 2008

Veteran's Memorial in Peachtree City

Thanks, guys! A special thank you to the American Legion Post in PTC who keeps the memorial awash in flags for the patriotic holidays.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bremen Post Office to be Named for Local Fallen Soldier

Bremen Post Office to be Named for Local Fallen Soldier
House Passes Gingrey Legislation to Honor the Late Sergeant Paul Saylor

The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed legislation introduced by Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) that will honor the late Sergeant Paul Saylor by designating the post office located at 101 Tallapoosa Street in Bremen, Georgia, as the “Sergeant Paul Saylor Post Office Building.” Sergeant Saylor heroically gave his life for our country on August 15, 2005, while on patrol in Mahmudiyah, Iraq when the vehicle he was traveling in rolled over into a canal. He was 21 years old.

“Our nation will be forever indebted to Sergeant Paul Saylor,” said Gingrey. “I know he is here with us today, and I would like to say: Thank you, Paul. Your spirit lives on and you will never be forgotten.”

This legislation had nearly fifty co-sponsors, including every Member of the Georgia Congressional Delegation.

The legislation now awaits action in the Senate.

Below, please find the video, audio and text of Congressman Gingrey’s remarks. To watch the video, click here.

Remarks by Congressman Phil Gingrey
on H.R. 6092, designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 101 Tallapoosa Street in Bremen, Georgia, as the “Sergeant Paul Saylor Post Office Building”
July 8, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 6092, a bill I introduced to honor the life of Paul Anthony Saylor by designating the post office in Bremen, Georgia as the Sergeant Paul Saylor Post Office.

Mr. Speaker, thankfully we are at a point today where the Iraqi government is proving to be more and more capable of securing its country and where al-Qaeda terrorists are on the verge of being completely routed. We can all agree that the road on which we have traveled has been anything but smooth. Indeed, we have lost 4,166 of our nation’s greatest treasures in Iraq.

They are not just statistics, Mr. Speaker — there is a story behind every one of the brave men and women who have died serving our country in the Global War on Terror. I have come to know Paul’s story well over the last three years.

Paul Saylor’s story is indeed one of courage, kindness, generosity, and devotion to his family and to his country. Paul was a beloved son to his parents, Jamie and Patti; a beloved brother to Little Jamie; and a beloved nephew to Linda Kirkland. He enjoyed playing high school football with his older brother and was known for his smile and his caring heart. Since Paul’s death, many have spoken of his penchant for standing up for others being bullied, and for picking people up when they were down. It is testament to the affection that others had for Paul that of the 5,000 citizens of his hometown, over 1,500 attended his funeral.

Mr. Speaker, it was Paul’s sense of duty that led him to join the Georgia National Guard following his attendance at North Georgia College and State University. Upon joining, Paul had no idea he would be called upon to defend our freedom in Iraq, but when he was, he bravely answered that call. He served our nation in Iraq as a member of the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade. Paul lost his life on August 15, 2005 while on patrol in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq, when the vehicle he was traveling in rolled over into a canal. He was 21 years old.

Sadly, Mr. Speaker, upon being returned to his family, Paul’s remains were in a state of advanced decomposition, and he was not able to be viewed by his family for a final goodbye. His family has since worked tirelessly to improve the treatment of the remains of all fallen soldiers to ensure that no family has to experience a similar fate.

As I have worked with Paul’s family to address the shortfalls in the mortuary process, I have visited the mortuary facility at Dover Air Force Base, as well as a mortuary affairs collection point in Iraq, to evaluate current processes and procedures and identify areas where improvements could be made. Those efforts led to the inclusion of a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, which requires that all medical personnel be trained in remains preservation prior to their deployment.

This training is carried out in the medical training facilities at Ft. Sam Houston and the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. On a recent visit, I was able to determine that the Army is solemnly carrying out this duty. While we could never do enough to support and honor Paul’s sacrifice, it is the least we can do to ensure that we can honor the remains of our fallen heroes with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Our nation will be forever indebted to Sergeant Paul Saylor. I know he is here with us today, and I would like to say: Thank you, Paul. Your spirit lives on and you will never be forgotten.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all of my colleagues to join me today in honoring Sergeant Paul Saylor.

Vote yes on H.R. 6092.

Freed U.S. Hostages Provide Independence Day Message

American contractors Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, who'd been among 15 hostages held for more than five years in Colombia by leftist rebels until their July 2 rescue by the Colombian military, released the following public statement on July 4 through U.S. Army South, as provided by the unit's commander, Army Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber:
"First, we want to assure everyone that we're all doing fine. Words alone can never possibly express the thrill and excitement we feel to be back home in the United States of America with our families at our side.

"There are obviously many people we want to thank. Most of all, we want to thank our families: for their patience, for their love and for their support. For five and a half long years, we all hoped and prayed this day would come. Now that it has, we're just overwhelmed with emotion. The love and the joy we're all experiencing is beyond description.

"Next, we want to offer our heartfelt thanks to the government and the Armed Forces of Colombia. The operation they conducted to rescue us was one for the history books—something we will never forget for the rest of our lives.

"Colombia is a great nation with a great people, and the struggle they have endured with the FARC for more than 40 years is a shining testament to their great spirit: like the loved ones here with us now, they never gave up in the belief that human kindness and decency would ultimately prevail. To all those still held in captivity, our prayers and our thoughts are with you and your loved ones. We haven't forgotten you, and we never will.

"To our employer, Northrop Grumman, our sincere appreciation for your dedication and consistent support to our precious families throughout this ordeal.

"Finally, we want to recognize our own United States Government who never forgot us, as evidenced by the tireless efforts of the superb team of men and women in the United States Embassy, Bogotá, Colombia. Specifically, here at Fort Sam Houston, we want to thank General Huber of United States Army South, General Gilman of the Brooke Army Medical Center, Col. Martinson of Garrison, Fort Sam Houston, and their staffs, for the warm hospitality they've provided us and our families. The personal and professional concern they have taken in our well-being is deeply touching, and the reintegration process they are conducting on our behalf is worthwhile and important. We are all obviously eager to return home, but first we want to complete this entire process so we can return to our lives in the best physical and emotional shape possible.

"We understand that a lot of people are eager to see and hear from us, and they will. But right now, more than anything, we just want to be with our loved ones. We ask that the media respect our privacy as we reunite with our families. Rest assured, we will respond to your questions in the near future.

"Today, in the United States of America, it is the Fourth of July: the day when Americans everywhere celebrate our independence. We can't think of a better time to thank our fellow citizens for never giving up on us, for never forgetting us, for always believing that we would, one day, return home to the country we love.

"From the three of us and from our families, Happy Fourth of July."

American Forces Press Service

The Patriot's Hymn

"The Patriot's Hymn"
as penned by the Rev. Thomas Garland for the July 4, 1915 service at a Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

This hymn was sung at the 2005 grave dedication of Revolutionary Patriots John Henry and James Glenn. These patriots are buried at the St. Clair Cemetery in Mt Lebanon, Allegheny, PA.

Artwork by: A S Eldredge
James Waldrop Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution
Fayetteville, GA

Monday, July 7, 2008

Command Flies Historic American Flag in Afghanistan

More than 50 U.S. sailors rendered a salute as their nation's colors were raised over Camp Eggers in honor of America's Independence Day. What made the ceremony so special was the American flag had only 48 stars.

The flag was flown courtesy of retired Navy Cmdr. Joseph Agra III, who works at the Kabul International Airport as a logistics mentor for the Afghan National Army Air Corps.

Agra acquired the flag from a Filipino fisherman while living in the Philippines in 2000. The fisherman retrieved it from his net while fishing off the coast of the Bataan Peninsula.

"I saw the flag on a pole and asked the fisherman where he got it," Agra said. "After he told me, I asked if I could have it. He sold it to me for ten dollars."

Agra said after taking the flag home and washing it, his son realized it only had 48 stars. Upon this discovery, Agra started researching flags for a hint of its origin.

Because the 48-star flag was only flown between 1912 and 1959, Agra theorized that it came from one of five U.S. Navy ships that were sunk by the Imperial Japanese Forces in the opening months of World War II.

"I researched the ships that were sunk in hostile fire, instead of being scuttled," Agra said. "When you're scuttled, you take everything you can off the ship. I think this flag went down with a ship."

For eight years, Agra carried the flag with him to several locations. He has flown the flag over camps in the Philippines, Kuwait, Iraq and now, Afghanistan.

After the flag was raised, Navy Capt. Shawno May, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan command surgeon directorate, spoke to the formation of sailors.

"The men that served under this flag more than 50 years ago gave their last full measure of devotion," May said. "These men were fighting in the Philippines to help freedom ring in a land where it wasn't. Again, America finds itself in a country where freedom is just beginning to ring."

Master Chief Bennie Gloria, CSTC-A Equal Opportunity advisor, said the ceremony was a perfect way to start the Independence Day celebration.

"It's very important that we remember our shipmates that came before us and lost their lives," Gloria said. "We are their legacy."

When the ceremony ended, the sailors took turns touching the flag and taking in a little part of history.

"I wanted to share it with others," Agra said. "I could have kept it and hung it in my living room, but then I would only see it."

Agra retired from active duty last year and will return to his home in the Philippines after his tour in Afghanistan. When he returns, he plans to donate the flag to a World War II museum and American cemetery near the location it was found.

"It's their flag," Agra said, speaking of the veterans who lost their life in World War II. "It's a symbol. These men lost their lives fighting for their country, they are buried there. That is where the flag should be."

By Army Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
American Forces Press Service

Army Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio is assigned to Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.

President Thanks Nation's 'Brave Defenders' on Independence Day

In his weekly radio, President Bush thanked America's men and women in uniform, past and present, for defending freedom from Bunker Hill to Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said preserving the nation's independence "has required brave defenders, and every generation of Americans has produced them. From the soldiers who fought for independence at Bunker Hill and Yorktown, to the Americans who broke the chains of slavery, liberated Europe and Asia from tyranny, and brought down an evil empire, the people of this great land have always risen to freedom's defense."

"Today, the men and women of America's Armed Forces continue this proud tradition of defending liberty," he said. "In places like Afghanistan and Iraq, many risk their lives every day to protect America and uphold the principle that human freedom is the birthright of all people and a gift from the Almighty."

"These brave Americans make it possible for America to endure as a free society," Bush concluded. "So on this Fourth of July, we owe all those who wear the uniform of the United States a special debt of gratitude. And we thank their families for supporting them in this crucial time for our Nation."

American Forces Press Service