MOPH 73rd National Convention

Welcome graphic

August 16, 2005 - August 20, 2005
Springfield, MO


    WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The following are remarks by Vice
President Cheney at the 73rd National Convention of the Military Order of the
Purple Heart:

    University Plaza Hotel

    Springfield, Missouri

    12:46 P.M. CDT

    THE VICE PRESIDENT:   Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  At
ease, please.  (Laughter.)
    Well, thank you very much.  It's great to be back in Ozark Mountain
country, and to join the 73rd National Convention of a great American
organization, the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
    Let me thank your national commander, Bob Lichtenberger of Texas, for the
introduction, and for his leadership of the M.O.P.H.  I also want to thank
Bill Bacon, Carol Lance, the President of the Ladies auxiliary, and chapter
leaders from around the country for being here today.   I'm pleased that we
are joined by members of our military stationed at Fort Leonard Wood and by
Medal of Honor recipient Nick Bacon, as well.
    It's good to see all of you, and I'm honored to bring warm greetings to
you from our Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States, George W.
Bush.  (Applause.)
    Members of this order come from all regions of the country, and from every
walk of life, but you share a distinction that all citizens recognize and
respect:  The medal you wear is the oldest decoration in the American armed
forces, created by General George Washington and originally named the Badge of
Military Merit.  The Purple Heart is the only award that comes not through any
recommendation or approval, but as a matter of right to those wounded in
combat.  It is also known as "the medal that no one ever tries to earn."
    But all of you did earn it.  And in so doing you took your place among the
men and women who suffered most to protect this nation.  You put your life on
the line for the United States of America.  You bled in freedom's cause, and
you have the nation's gratitude.
    As combat veterans you know the toughest realities of the battlefield, and
you have seen fellow Americans give the last full measure of devotion in
defense of our country.  My old friend Joe Foss, who earned both the Purple
Heart and the Medal of Honor in World War II, used to say, "Those of us who
lived have to represent those who didn't make it."
    I know that all of you feel the same way.  And I know your fallen comrades
would be proud of you -- not just for your service in uniform, but for your
enduring service as patriotic citizens.  You look out for each other, and move
swiftly to the side of veterans in need.  You build and care for war memorials
across our country.  You stand behind our men and women in uniform, and
welcome home returning soldiers.  For those who have been wounded, you give
the moral support and encouragement that only you can give.  And like every
generation of veterans, you are a daily example of the values of personal
responsibility, physical and moral strength, and unselfish courage.
    The United States of America and its military are today as we began: a
democracy, defended by volunteers.  And we owe so much to every generation of
American soldiers.  More than two centuries ago, citizens stepped forward to
wage a war of independence, fighting the army of an empire and facing the
longest of odds.  The struggle was to last eight years; and of those, the
pivotal one was 1776, as David McCullough writes in his new book.  "This,"
McCullough recently said, was "the most important year of the most important
conflict in our history.  And we damned near lost it."
    The victories in 1776 were few, and the condition of the Army was
dreadful.  By Christmastime our men were cold, hungry, and exhausted, and many
of them didn't even have boots to wear.  The volunteers were near the end of
their rope, and thousands of enlistments were set to expire on New Year's Day.
These men were bound and determined to leave, so the Continental Army was
about to evaporate.  General Washington himself said, "I think the game is
pretty near up."
    General Washington decided to make one final appeal to his discouraged
soldiers.  "My brave fellows," he said, "you have done all I asked you to do
and more than could be reasonably expected; you have worn yourself out with
fatigues and hardships; but we know not how to spare you.  The present is
emphatically the crisis, which is to decide our destiny."  One by one the men
stepped forward.  They could not let their country or their fellow soldiers
down.  Inspired by leadership and renewed in their strength, they stayed in
the fight -- and America won the war.
    From that day to this, our country has always counted on the bravest among
us to answer the call of duty -- fighting our wars, defending our interests,
standing by our friends, and keeping patient vigil against the enemies of
freedom.
    All who wear the uniform today, and every person who has served honorably
in the military, can be proud of the cause that America represents in the
world.  As a nation born in revolution we believe, and we know, that tyranny
must be opposed and ended, that cruelty and violence must be answered, not
with indifference but with justice, that innocent captives deserve to be
liberated, and that every person on this earth has a yearning to be free.
    At this moment, all branches of the armed services are fighting the new
war against one of our most ruthless enemies.  Those who attacked America have
proven their eagerness to kill innocent men, women, and children by the
thousands.  They are looking to obtain weapons of mass destruction by any
means they can find.  They would not hesitate to use such weapons at the first
opportunity.  And their prime target is our country.
    Four years ago, on a Tuesday morning in September, a threat that had been
gathering for years, in secret and far away, arrived in America and brought
grief to the entire nation.  And after 9/11, the United States made a
decision: Having been attacked by stealth inside our own country, we will not
sit back and wait to be hit again.  We will do everything we can to prevent
attacks by taking the fight to the enemy.  (Applause.)
    In these 47 months, we have been unrelenting in the effort to defend the
freedom and security of the American people.  In a multinational campaign, we
continue to make progress on many fronts -- financial, legal, military, as
well as others.
    Defeating the terrorists and their ambitions requires that we deny them
sanctuary and support, and the United States is leading a global coalition in
that effort.  We are dealing with a network that has had cells in countries
all over the world.  Yet bit by bit, through diplomacy and by force, with our
allies and partners, we are acting to shrink the area in which the terrorists
can safely operate.
    Many countries have joined us in tracking the enemy, disrupting plots
against America and our friends, destroying the training camps of terror, and
closing off their access to funding.  We have also enforced a doctrine that is
understood by all:  Governments that support or harbor terrorists are
complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist
crimes.
    We gave ultimatums to the brutal regimes led by the Taliban and Saddam
Hussein.  And when those regimes defied the demands of the civilized world, we
removed them from power and liberated 50 million people.
    Our actions have also persuaded the regime in Libya to voluntarily abandon
its weapons of mass destruction programs.  In addition, we uncovered a
sophisticated, large-scale network selling nuclear technologies on the black
market, and we've shut that network down.  The United States has acted
decisively, and we have sent a clear message:  We will not stand by and allow
terrorists to find safe haven, or to gain access to weapons of mass
destruction.
    The war on terror has a home front, and we have taken extraordinary
measures to protect the American people and our homeland.  Yet for all the
improvement in homeland security, we are mindful of a continuing danger to
this country.  Every morning President Bush and I receive an intelligence
briefing that includes a review of the threats we face.  The enemy that
appeared on 9/11 is wounded, off-balance, and on the run, yet still very
active, still seeking recruits, still trying to hit us.
    Since 9/11 terrorists have continued to wage deadly attacks -- never as a
conventional military force, but as a hidden element determined to slip in
unnoticed, to shed innocent blood, and to shake the will of the civilized
world.
    In Bali, bombs in a commercial district killed more than 200.  In Riyadh,
simultaneous suicide car bombings of civilian targets left 34 dead and many
more injured.  Since the mid-1990s in Jerusalem and in other cities in Israel,
multiple suicide bombings have killed and maimed hundreds.  In Casablanca,
five separate attacks took the lives of over 40 civilians and hurt more than
100.  In Jakarta, a blast in front of a hotel killed 13 and injured at least
150.  In Istanbul, terrorists set off four trucks filled with explosives,
killing approximately 60 people and injuring some 700 more.  In Madrid, 10
bombs on commuter trains killed nearly 200 and wounded more than 1,800.  Six
weeks ago today in England, terrorists set off four explosions at rush hour,
all of them targeted at commuters taking the train or the bus.  The body count
in central London was 56, including the bombers, together with another 700
injured.  A few weeks later in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, suicide bombers in a
commercial district killed as many as 90 people, and injured more than 100
others.
    In Iraq, terrorists have slaughtered innocent people in marketplaces, in
restaurants, in private homes, at police recruiting stations, in a hospital,
and outside a mosque.  They have beheaded bound men in front of cameras, and
killed UN employees and international aid workers.  Earlier this summer, as
American soldiers were giving candy to children, a suicide bomber drove into
the crowd, killing 18 boys and girls and an American soldier.
    That's the nature of the enemy we face in the war on terror, and will face
for the duration of this struggle.  And our duty is clear.  Killers who target
innocent, unsuspecting men, women, and children on a peaceful street, or set
off explosions during a morning rush hour, or fly passenger jets into
buildings are not the kind of people you can bring to the bargaining table and
sit down for a reasonable exchange of ideas.  This is not a war we can win
strictly on the defensive.  Our only option against these enemies is to find
them, to fight them, and to destroy them.  (Applause.)
    Iraqis a critical front in the war on terror, and victory there is
critical to the future security of the U.S. and other free nations.  We know
this, and the terrorists know it as well.  Osama bin Laden has said the "Third
World War is raging" in Iraq.  "The whole world," he said, "is watching this
war."  He says it will end in "victory and glory -- or misery and
humiliation."
    Our mission in Iraq is clear.  On the military side, we are hunting down
the terrorists, and training Iraqi security forces so they can take over
responsibility for defending their own country.  And over time, as Iraqi
forces stand up, American forces will stand down.  On the political side,
we're helping Iraqis build a vital, peaceful, self-governing nation that can
be an ally in the war on terror.
    There, as in Afghanistan and across the broader Middle East, we are
encouraging free markets, democracy, and tolerance -- because these are the
ideas and the aspirations that overcome violence, and turn the creative gifts
of men and women to the pursuits of peace.  And this is the very kind of
progress that will promote the long-term security of our country, and make the
world safer for future generations.
    After decades of tyranny and neglect in the broader Middle East, progress
toward freedom will not come easily.  It will be resisted by men whose only
hope for gaining power is through the spread of terror and violence.  Yet the
direction of events is clear.  Afghanistan has held the first free elections
in the nation's 5,000-year history.  In Iraq, voters turned out in incredible
numbers and elected leaders now preparing the way for a new constitution and a
new government.  The Palestinian people have chosen a new President and have
new hopes for democracy and peace.  The citizens of Ukraine have stood
strongly for their democratic rights, and chosen a new leader for their
country.  In Lebanon, citizens have poured into the streets to demand freedom
to determine a peaceful future for their own country as a fully independent
member of the world community.
    We are once again seeing the power of freedom to change our world, and all
who strive for freedom can know that the United States of America is on their
side.  (Applause.)
    When our war on terror began nearly four years ago, President Bush told
Congress and the country that we "should not expect one battle, but rather a
lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have seen."  It may, he said, "include
dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in
success."   All of this has come to pass.  And the greatest challenges are
borne by the men and women who take the oath to serve.
    No matter how many advances are made in military technology, our greatest
asset has always been, and will always be, the ones who man the aircraft and
the ships, and carry the rifles.  The United States Armed Forces reflect
extraordinary credit on this nation.  As a former Secretary of Defense, I am
proud to say the cause of freedom is in very good hands.  (Applause.)
    Right now in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is still tough fighting, in
conditions ranging from urban to desert to the high mountains.  At every stage
of this conflict, members of our military have had to carry out some of the
most perilous, technical, time-sensitive missions ever attempted.  When you
have enemies that are hidden, diffuse, secret in their movements, and
asymmetrical in their tactics, you have to go into the shadows and get them --
one at a time, if necessary.
    In the Cold War, national security required massing large forces at
borders, year in and year out for a stand-off.  The present security
environment often requires small teams to go searching in caves and hiking
over mountain peaks, or to conduct hazardous patrols in urban settings.  They
are hanging tough, going directly into the face of danger, rooting out deadly
enemies, and dealing with them.  By their training, their tactical skill, and
above all their character, men and women in our uniform are making us proud
each and every day.
    In this difficult and necessary cause we have lost some of our finest
Americans.  That loss is irreplaceable, and no one can take away the sorrow
that has come to the families of the fallen.  In military hospitals we also
have many soldiers recovering from serious injuries in battle.  Some are
facing a very hard road ahead, and they can be assured of the finest care we
can give them.  These Americans can wear the Purple Heart with pride, knowing
with absolute certainty that they have contributed to the future safety of
this nation, and to the peace of our world.
    Every man and woman who fights and sacrifices in this war is serving a
just and noble cause.  This nation will always be grateful to them, and we
will honor their sacrifice by completing our mission.  (Applause.)
    Like the President, over the last several years I have had the honor of
presenting the Purple Heart to my fellow Americans.  As in all wars, a good
number of battle decorations have been awarded posthumously.  One of those
we've honored is Army Sergeant Paul Ray Smith -- and the story of this young
man is one of the most impressive in our history.  In April of 2003, during
the campaign to liberate Iraq, a task force led by Sergeant Smith came under
surprise attack in Baghdad by a company-sized force of Saddam Hussein's
Republican Guard.  Under constant enemy fire, with his unit pinned down and a
number of men wounded, Sergeant Smith climbed onto a damaged armored vehicle
and manned a 50-caliber machine gun, all the while in a completely exposed
position.  He remained in that spot, subjecting himself to greater danger than
the military or the country could ever ask, firing incessantly at the enemy
until he took a fatal round to the head.  After the firefight, the Army
concluded that this one soldier had personally killed as many as 50 Republican
Guard, and saved the lives of more than 100 Americans.  On the second
anniversary of that fight, President Bush presented the Medal of Honor to the
wife and children of Sergeant Smith.  One of Paul Ray Smith's men said that he
"was hard in training because he knew we had to be hard in battle."  For as
long as citizens step forward to wear the uniform of the United States, our
nation will remember this man of courage.  (Applause.)
    I don't need to explain to the Military Order of the Purple Heart that
wartime conditions are a severe test of national resolve and military skill.
We have no illusions about the difficulty of engaging enemies that recognize
neither the laws of warfare nor standards of morality.  These enemies hate us,
they hate our country, and they hate the liberties for which we stand.  They
have contempt for our values.  They doubt our strength.  And they believe that
America will lose our nerve and let down our guard.  They are sorely mistaken.
(Applause.)
    We will not relent in this effort, because we have the clearest possible
understanding of what is at stake.  None of us wants to turn over the future
of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder,
enslaving whole populations, oppressing women, imposing an ideology of hatred
on an entire region, and arming to create death and destruction on an
unbelievable scale.  And so we must direct every resource that is necessary to
defending the peace and freedom of our world, and the safety of the people we
serve.  That is the commitment the United States -- that we've made to
ourselves and to other nations.  And with good allies at our side, we will see
this cause through to victory.
    It was George Washington who said, "Perseverance and spirit have done
wonders in all ages."  And ever since those first desperate days for the
republic, the perseverance and spirit of our military have always come through
for the people of the United States.  I am in the presence today of fellow
citizens who have shown those qualities under enemy fire.  In the words of one
of your department commanders, "It can be a very high price to join our
organization."
    On behalf of the President and the American people, I want to thank each
and every one of you for paying that price, for placing duty and honor above
self-interest, and for valuing service to this nation above your own life.
You did your part to keep our country free, and you inspired a new generation
of freedom's defenders.
    Thank you very much.

    END           1:07 P.M. CDT