Thank you for your service
One of my friends has a child graduating from the US Air Force Academy. Well, that child is now a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and serving our country. I made sure I sent an email note to say thanks.
Here is the graduation speech from President Bush given on June 2, 2004 at the USAF Academy. Excerpts:
This is a week of remembrance for our country. On Saturday we dedicated the World War II Memorial in Washington, in the company of veterans who fought and flew at places like Midway, and Iwo Jima and Normandy. This weekend I will go to France for the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day, at a place where the fate of millions turned on the courage of thousands. In these events we recall a time of peril, and national unity, and individual courage. We honor a generation of Americans who served this country and saved the liberty of the world. (Applause.)
On this day in 1944, General Eisenhower sat down at his headquarters in the English countryside, and wrote out a message to the troops who would soon invade Normandy. "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force," he wrote, "the eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."
Like the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, the ideology of terrorism reaches across boarders, and seeks recruits in every country. So we're fighting these enemies wherever they hide across the earth.
Like other totalitarian movements, the terrorists seek to impose a grim vision in which dissent is crushed, and every man and woman must think and live in colorless conformity. So to the oppressed peoples everywhere, we are offering the great alternative of human liberty.
Like enemies of the past, the terrorists underestimate the strength of free peoples. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows will collapse in weakness and in panic. The enemy has learned that America is strong and determined, because of the steady resolve of our citizens, and because of the skill and strength of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and the United States Air Force. (Applause.)
And like the aggressive ideologies that rose up in the early 1900s, our enemies have clearly and proudly stated their intentions: Here are the words of al Qaeda's self-described military spokesman in Europe, on a tape claiming responsibility for the Madrid bombings. He said, "We choose death, while you choose life. If you do not stop your injustices, more and more blood will flow and these attacks will seem very small compared to what can occur in what you call terrorism."
Here are the words of another al Qaeda spokesman, Suleiman Abu Gheith. Last year, in an article published on an al Qaeda website, he said, "We have the right to kill four million Americans -- two million of them children -- and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons."
In all these threats, we hear the echoes of other enemies in other times -- that same swagger and demented logic of the fanatic. Like their kind in the past, these murderers have left scars and suffering. And like their kind in the past, they will flame and fail and suffer defeat by free men and women. (Applause.)
The enemies of freedom are opposed by a great and growing alliance. Nations that won the Cold War, nations once behind an Iron Curtain, and nations on every continent see this threat clearly. We're cooperating at every level of our military, law enforcement and intelligence to meet the danger. The war on terror is civilization's fight. And, as in the struggles of the last century, civilized nations are waging this fight together.
This is the great challenge of our time, the storm in which we fly. History is once again witnessing a great clash. This is not a clash of civilizations. The civilization of Islam, with its humane traditions of learning and tolerance, has no place for this violent sect of killers and aspiring tyrants. This is not a clash of religions. The faith of Islam teaches moral responsibility that ennobles men and women, and forbids the shedding of innocent blood. Instead, this is a clash of political visions.
In the terrorists' vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown, nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of extremist rule must be universally enforced. In this vision, books are burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled in hatred and murder and suicide.
Our vision is completely different. We believe that every person has a right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in frightened submission to despots. (Applause.) We believe that societies find their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity. The vast majority of men and women in Muslim societies reject the domination of extremists like Osama bin Laden. They're looking to the world's free nations to support them in their struggle against the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle East. We will not abandon them to the designs of evil men. We will stand with the people of that region as they seek their future in freedom.
Some who call themselves "realists" question whether the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be any concern of ours. But the realists in this case have lost contact with a fundamental reality. America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat. America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.
In the years immediately after World War II ended, our nation faced more adversity and danger with the rise of imperial communism. In 1947, communist forces were pressing a civil war in Greece, and threatening Turkey. More than two years after the Nazi surrender, there was still starvation in Germany, reconstruction seemed to be faltering, and the Marshall Plan had not yet begun. In 1948, Berlin was blockaded on the orders of Josef Stalin. In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon, and communists in China won their revolution.
All of this took place in the first four years of the Cold War. If that generation of Americans had lost its nerve, there would have been no "long twilight struggle," only a long twilight. But the United States and our allies kept faith with captive peoples, and stayed true to the vision of a democratic Europe. And that perseverance gave all the world a lesson in the power of liberty. (Applause.)
We are now about three years into the war against terrorism. We have overcome great challenges, we face many today, and there are more ahead. This is no time for impatience and self-defeating pessimism. These times demand the kind of courage and confidence that Americans have shown before. Our enemy can only succeed if we lose our will and faith in our own values. And ladies and gentlemen, our will is strong. We know our duty. By keeping our word, and holding firm to our values, this generation will show the world the power of liberty once again. (Applause.)
For four years, you have trained and studied and worked for this moment. And now it has come. You are the ones who will defeat the enemies of freedom. Your country is depending on your courage and your dedication to duty. The eyes of the world are upon you. You leave this place at a historic time, and you enter this struggle ahead with the full confidence of your Commander-in-Chief. I thank each of you for accepting the hardships and high honor of service in the United States military. And I congratulate every member of the Rickenbacker Class of 2004. (Applause.)
May God bless you.