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Saturday, April 30. 2005
Gen. Peter Pace
GENERAL PETER PACE
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [now nominated to be Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff]Extemporaneous Remarks as delivered at theUSS HUE CITY’S 11th Annual Memorial Service marking the 35th Anniversary of the Battle for Hué
Mayport, Florida 2 February 2003
I didn't obviously. When I got there, my platoon was Steve Hancock's platoon. Steve's here. And instead of 43 Marines, it had 14. Fourteen. I was the third platoon commander in as many weeks. And I learned from those Marines so very much. But before I get to that, I would ask that all of you who fought in Hué City to stand or raise your hand if you cannot stand.
They're my heroes. These are men from various backgrounds: white men, and black men, and Hispanic. Some volunteers, mostly volunteers, but some draftees back then. Some were there because they thought the war was right; some didn't think the war was right, but they were there to serve their country. All were there fighting for their country. But in the final analysis, when it came down to the battlefield itself, it was a very, very different construct.
It's not that Marines do not know fear. In fact, if you show me a Marine who does not know fear then I'll show you a Marine I don't want to be anywhere near on the battlefield. There were many nights where I wished I could get my body tucked up inside my helmet and just wait for a while. But like every other Marine, when I looked around at the eyes of my fellow Marines, I knew that they were depending on me. We did what Marines do: we got up and got the job done. Because Marines do have fear in combat -- but more than that we feared that somehow we would let our fellow Marines down in battle, and somehow we would not live up to the wonderful heritage that we have received from those who proceeded us, and what an honor it was for us to write one or two more pages in the passages of the history of the Corps.
There are several Marines who are not with us today whose names I repeat to myself every day: Guido Farinaro, Chubby Hale, Whitey Travers, Mike Witt, Fred Williams, Little Joe Arnold, John Miller. Those men trusted me. They trusted me as their lieutenant. And in doing what I asked them to do, they did not come home. Because of them and because of the men in this room, I am still on active duty. Because I owe a debt that I can never repay. And for them to die and for so many others to be wounded, and for me not even to receive a scratch in 13 months, I thought it was a message from God that I was supposed to do something for Him...and for them. So I've never, ever, had a doubt in my mind that I was supposed to stay on active duty.
But I tried when I left Vietnam to repay. So I got to my next duty station and was fortunate enough to get another platoon, and I tried to give to those Marines what I could no longer give to the Marines I'd lost in Vietnam. And a funny thing happened: the more I tried to give to the folks I worked with, the more they gave me. So there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that by trying to repay, I received much more than I could have ever given. And that when that lieutenant, or captain or major whose last name was "Pace" made a mistake—which I made a lot of—those guys who were with me made me look a whole lot better than I deserved to look. In trying to repay in one unit, more Marines would do great things and I would owe more to more people. And I am now, after 30-almost-six years, hopelessly behind and terribly in debt. But it is why I continue to serve, and why I never question what job it is I am asked to do…because somebody else didn’t have that chance. I'm just honored and delighted to have the opportunity to continue to serve.
Being a General is fun. I just thought I'd tell you that. And when they play "Honors," and "Ruffles and Flourishes" ... it makes me feel good. But, when one of these men in this audience comes up to me with a beer in his hand and says, "Hey, Lieutenant"...that's an honor.
This is an amazing country. My dad was born in Italy. His son is the Vice-Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. You can't do that anyplace else in the world. The reason we can do it is because of battles like Hué City. And many have gone on before that, and many are still to come. Today a lot of our sons and daughters are steaming toward harm’s way. We all hope they will not have to fight. We all know that if they do have to fight, they will do what American service men and women have always done, which is deliver for our country.
What I need to tell you is that I have not forgotten what I learned 35 years ago from the men in this room. And as I discharge the duties of my present job, every day I ask myself, "If this war were to start tomorrow, what is it that you, General, should have done to ensure that PFC Pace or PFC Jones, or whoever is out there, has the support that he or she deserves?" I promise you men who have given me the life that I have been living, that I will not betray all you have done. And that as best I can, I will serve you and your sons and your daughters.
This is a great day. Just to renew friendships, and to make some new friends. And again to the crew of Hué City, thank you, for the magnificent way in which you take care of your ship and our ship. And we know that if you do go into harm’s way that you will do it magnificently as Navy men have always done.
Captain Young, you all were kind enough to say that you were honored to have me here today. The truth is that I'm honored to be here and to have this additional opportunity to say thank you to the great men in this room who've earned more than I could ever give, thanks to everyone.
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