Monday, August 07, 2006
Retirement from the Military
From Printed Retirement Program:
On April 1st, 1975, I raised my hand to the square in Salt Lake City, Utah, and took an oath to defend this Nation and support its Constitution as a soldier in the regular U.S. Army. At the end of that three-year hitch, it was my opinion that this country needed a convincing reserve force to stand with a leaner active duty force in protecting our national interests. Thus, after a break in service, I again raised my hand to the square on July 30, 1985…this time as a U.S. Navy Reserve sailor.
While I have never served in a combat zone, I have attempted to be true to my oaths of enlistment, and to live up to the Sailor’s Creed as I performed my duties. Today as I retire, I raise my hand in a salute to all those who have served and those will serve in harm’s way, and who have made and will make sacrifices far greater than mine
I also salute those who have served with me at 7th MEDICAL BATALLION, SURFPAC, SPECWAR GROUP ONE, JICPAC, FITCPAC, NBIT, and elsewhere in RIA FOUR and NOSC SAN DIEGO. I pray that our combined efforts have been acceptable before the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation. I further pray that we and those who follow us will ever be able to call America beautiful, and report that every gain has indeed been divine.
Complete Retirement Speech:
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.” 1789 George Washington
We are assembled here today to recognize and express appreciation to fourteen retiring sailors. Though not all of us were deployed to serve in harm’s way during our careers, all of us were prepared to do so, and all have worn the uniform of the United States Navy in support of our nation’s reserve forces during a period in history that witnessed the end of the Cold War and the violent restructuring of eastern Europe, the rendering of order and humanitarian aid to chaotic and famine-ravaged parts of Africa, the large scale defense of Kuwait, which had been invaded by one of the most powerful armies in the world. And now, history having witnessed the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, we pass the baton to you. It is fitting that this group of retiring sailors be ceremoniously recognized and appreciated, in the hope that those of you who remain will be inspired to continue in your willingness and commitment to serve in present and future wars. If you are a young man or woman here today as a guest, there is also the hope that you will take up the torch and prepare yourselves to one day serve this nation in a meaningful way, maybe even in uniform.
I want to tell you about some other veterans who served here in San Diego a long time ago. Hopefully, their stories will also inspire you to continue to serve this great country. If we had been gathered at this very place on July 29, 1846, during the War with Mexico, we might have witnessed the arrival of the sloop USS Cyane, commanded by Commander Samuel Francis Dupont. That would have been one of the first recorded incidents of U.S. Naval presence in San Diego. On board, along with the crew and a detachment of marines, was Captain John C. Frémont of the US Mounted Rifles, with a contingency of volunteers. Their orders were to occupy the town and port of San Diego, then a possession of México. After capturing the Mexican brig Juanita, the American troops came ashore, and the American flag was raised over San Diego, at 4 p.m. by LT Stephen C. Rowan, USN, in what is today “Old Town.” LT Rowan was later wounded in the battle for Los Angeles, but CAPT Rowan lived to serve gallantly in the Civil War, Vice Admiral Rowan retired in 1889 after a career of sixty-three years. Commander Dupont himself served a total of forty-five years in the navy and reached the rank of Rear Admiral.
Ten days later, the Cyane and the bulk of the troops departed for other missions. Within weeks, the small remaining U.S. force was overrun my local Mexican loyalists. The struggle for control of San Diego, Los Angeles, and Monterey went back and forth for months. Anticipating the need for reinforcement in California, President Polk had already mobilized ground forces from the east, under the overall command of Colonel Stephan W. Kearny. Some of these troops came from Missouri and others were drafted from the Mormon wagon trains as they were strung out across Iowa. The new conscripts had to forge their own roads as they came west from Ft. Leavenworth. One of these groups, a battalion of 500 men, arrived in San Diego in January of 1847, under the command of Army Major Philip St. George Cooke. In so doing, they completed one of the longest and most arduous infantry marches in history. By the time they entered Old Town, however, overt hostilities had already ended in San Diego. This group of soldiers had never been fired upon, and had never been required to fire upon an enemy. Their fiercest opponents were the rigors of the march, which claimed 30 lives. They served out their enlistments in San Diego and Los Angeles guarding highways and constructing forts, and performing civil works such as carving out roads, digging and lining wells and irrigation ditches, and building the first brick kiln and first federal courthouse in San Diego. They helped with the cultural transition as Old California prepared itself for inclusion in the New United States. Colonel Kearny, the father of the U.S. Cavalry, and for whom Kearny Mesa is named, was promoted to Major General, but died the next year from a tropical disease contracted earlier in the War with Mexico, having served in the Army since the War of 1812. Major Cooke served a total of fifty years in the Army before retiring as Major General in 1873. The troops of the battalion themselves were mustered out of service here in California. They had to earn money for supplies and blaze their own ways back to their families. A bronze statue at the top of Presidio Hill honors them for their long march and their military and civil contributions to San Diego and the nation. Along with more famous and decorated veterans through our history, I appreciate the members of this humble yet brave battalion which is part of my personal heritage. Knowledge of their commitment and humble obedience has inspired me through my career.
I also appreciate those military men and women in my lifetime, including many of you out there in the ranks and in the audience, who have served and sacrificed so that I could raise my family in peace. Not everybody becomes an admiral or a general. My gratitude goes particularly today to the enlisted, who are the core of our fighting forces. I think constantly of those brave souls who are dug in at this very moment in the Middle East, some under hellish conditions, and some who will not see tomorrow on this earth. As a nation, we must treat them and their families well, and let them know convincingly that they are appreciated.
Today we honor fourteen retiring sailors. Some have sea and war stories to tell. Some have performed heroically while in action. Myself, I am more like the members of the Mormon Battalion I described earlier. I’ve never seen hostile action. In my case, it was my lot never to have been mobilized. I’d like to think that my service while in uniform has inspired others to do their best. I’d like to believe that just knowing that reservists like us are here, willing and prepared, has been a deterrent to would-be enemies.
In conclusion, the speeches and ceremony today show appreciation for the departing watch. We have been treated well. Just as importantly, this event is for you who continue the watch. Take note of the honor, courage, commitment, and wisdom exhibited here today. Commit to do your best. God bless you for your willingness to serve. May he protect you and prosper you in both war and peace. Thank you.
(This speech was greatly abbreviated in its delivery because the ceremony, which recognized nine retirees, had already lasted close to two hours. The following day, most of the troops who had stood in ranks had moderate to severe sunburns. Thanks for enduring, shipmates!)