By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., Sept. 17, 2007 – There is evil in the world, and the United States military stands ready to take on that evil, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Families United for a Strong America here today.
Many members of the group lost family members in Iraq and Afghanistan. They invited Marine Gen. Peter Pace to help them place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns here and then to address their rededication ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheater.
“Gatherings like this are the most meaningful and the most difficult,” Pace told the crowd of between 450 and 500 members. “They are the most meaningful because we actually get a chance to stop and think about the incredible gift that our most loved ones have given us. They are the most difficult because somehow – at least for me – the English language does not properly express what is in our hearts.”
Pace, accompanied by his wife, Lynne, thanked the group for inviting him and for another chance “to pay our respects, and to reflect on the incredible 231 years of our nation.”
He said ceremonies like this give all Americans the chance to think about the history of the nation and what it means to be free. Those who fought for liberty and freedom made it possible for the United States to be born and to endure. The thousands of tombstones in this national cemetery give reality to that sacrifice, he said.
“Those of us who have the privilege of wearing the uniform today know fear,” he said. “When we’re in combat we know fear for sure. But what we fear more than physical danger is that somehow we’ll let down those who went before us. That somehow the sacrifice of your loved ones and so many other who have served this nation honorably for so long, that somehow our performance will not measure up to theirs.”
The incredible legacy and heritage their sacrifices bought Americans “instills in us an understanding of what is right to do, when it is right to do it, and the determination to follow through,” the chairman told the audience.
Evil still lives in the world, Pace said. “Like so many times in our nation’s history, there is evil that wants to change the way we live,” he said. “(It is an evil) that wants to prevent ” us from meeting like this and praying the way you want to or not.”
Those who have died or been wounded in the fight against terror “have made it possible for us to gather here today,” he said. “All of us who wear the uniform promise you that as long as we can draw a breath ourselves that we will make it possible for us to meet like this tomorrow and the day after for as long as we please in this incredible nation we call home.”
Pace said that he hopes his and his wife’s attendance at the ceremony “can convey to you what an incredible honor it has been to serve this nation for some 40 years, standing side by side with your sons and your daughters and your husbands and your wives. No one can ask for more than that.”