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U.S. military has long history of perseverance

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- During this holiday season, we usually do a fine job remembering our brothers and sisters in arms serving all over the world in defense of our great nation.

I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on those who served before us and who made the United States of America the greatest nation on earth. Times of war not only require but also demand a determined perseverance, sacrifice and high morale.

Our nation owes its existence to the Continental Army and General George Washington. This army persevered and sacrificed in order to set the foundations of our country and the United States Military.

A week before Christmas in 1777, General George Washington made camp with 11,000 members of the Continental Army. This army was worn out, freezing, malnourished, and undersupplied. General Washington stated in a letter to Congress "You could have tracked the Army from White Marsh to Valley Forge by the blood of their feet."

Even under those terrible conditions, great men served their country with a determination that still prevails today. Nathanael Greene accepted a position as Quartermaster General and fixed many of the logistic problems that prevented the army from being properly supplied.

Baron Von Steuben reported for duty at Valley Forge as an unpaid volunteer. He retrained the entire army on the profession of arms and introduced military discipline.

Being a first sergeant I always like to mention that during his time at Valley Forge, Von Steuben outlined the duties and created a position that would eventually become the first sergeant.

Valley Forge was a great success because the army survived to fight another day. They pressed on with a determined perseverance and four years later defeated the British at Yorktown. This determined perseverance keeps our Air Force strong during turbulent times like base realignments, budget cuts and drawdowns.

One hundred and sixty seven years after Valley Forge, our country and military once again showed a determined perseverance. This time it was Ardennes region of Eastern Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge. The winter was ferocious and is still documented as the coldest on record. American forces operating in the region were surprise attacked by 29 German Army Divisions consisting of over 500,000 troops. The Germans were much better supplied, equipped with Panzer tanks and even used jet bomber aircraft for the first time.

The Battle of the Bulge turned out to be the largest battle fought by the Americans during the war with 81,000 servicemembers losing their life in defense of our great nation. The perseverance and sacrifice of these heroes crushed the German resistance, which opened up the opportunity for a winter campaign by the Russian Army and paved the way to Berlin and an allied victory.

Sacrifice has become a routine word in the military today. We all make a promise to sacrifice when we take the oath of enlistment or commission. The sacrifice does not come unwarranted or unnoticed.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently stated, "Freedom is a right ultimately defended by the sacrifice of America's servicemen and women." It goes without question that Airman today and tomorrow will continue to sacrifice to ensure our freedoms as Americans.

Twenty years later, from 1964-1972 the great entertainer Bob Hope kept spirits up and morale high through a series of Christmas performances. These performances continued through many perils and risk of his life.

On Christmas Eve 1964 in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, a hotel Mr. Hope was staying at was blown up by a Viet Cong truck loaded with 300 pounds of TNT. Mr. Hope was delayed at the airport and documents found later in the war indicated that Mr. Hope was the target of the bombing. Mr. Hope showed determined perseverance by continuing the USO tour.
His opening gag at the next show was, "I want to thank you for your welcome to Saigon. As I came into town, I saw a hotel go the other way".

Bob Hope was a very wealthy and famous man. His sacrifices to improve the morale of the military will never go unforgotten.

I ask you to remember the morale of every one of your troops, not only this holiday season but also each and every day of the year. We have been at war since September 11, 2001 and the morale of our troops will continue to be a deciding factor of victory.

I want to wish everyone at Seymour Johnson a very happy and safe holiday season and thank you for serving our country. Remember our past, and strive through determined perseverance, sacrifice, and morale efforts to continue our Air Force's dominance as the best and most lethal fighting force ever known to mankind.