Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wicker honors next great generation of American patriots
By U.S. Senator
In observance of Memorial Day, communities and organizations across Mississippi are holding ceremonies to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
On May 15, I was privileged to attend a Bay Springs ceremony that brought together members of the National Guard, servicemen who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some 100 of our nation’s oldest veterans.
Arnold Flowers of Laurel was among two World War II veterans who gave moving accounts of their experiences in the Bataan Death March. The veterans – many of them in their 80s and 90s – helped honor a recently fallen American hero, 20-year-old Marine Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee of Quitman.
Corporal Lee died in a mortar attack in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007. I hope it was a comfort to his family, who also attended the event along with Dustin’s beloved bomb-sniffing dog, Lex, to see patriots of that great generation pay tribute to their young son’s sacrifice.
The Next Great Generation
Dustin Jerome Lee is part of a new generation of American heroes who are fighting for our freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Currently, 2,486 Mississippians are deployed on active duty. Like many who served before them, some of our brave troops have paid with their lives.
Sixty-five Mississippians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most recent funeral service I attended was in February for Army Staff Sergeant William Ricketts of Corinth. SSG Ricketts was a decorated hero who served two tours of duty in Iraq and lost his life during a third tour in Afghanistan.
I was humbled to join his family and friends in mourning, and I extend to them my deepest gratitude for the sacrifice they have made – along with thousands of other military families.
The names of fallen Mississippi sons and daughters like Corporal Lee and SSG Ricketts are written into history, joining thousands of others and establishing a new legacy of patriotism and service.
While some previous U.S. conflicts have relied on the draft to fill the ranks, every man and woman in the military today has voluntarily joined one of our service branches.
Today, military recruiting goals are being met and exceeded. As an Air Force veteran, this fact fills me with pride and gives evidence that this is another great generation of Americans.
Providing for Our Troops
I am also reminded of the enormous responsibility Congress has to protect and provide for our troops who are fighting in harm’s way. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have the opportunity to play an active role in the decisions that affect our military and our continued efforts to defeat global terrorism.
Since late 2009, when President Obama announced a surge in troop force in Afghanistan, more Americans have poured into that country to intensify our counterinsurgency efforts.
Over the past several months, I have met in Afghanistan and in Washington with our top generals and administration officials, as well as with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to make sure our strategy for victory in Afghanistan is on point.
The best way we can honor the fallen is to make sure their fellow men and women in uniform are equipped to finish this critical mission.
Unlike after previous wars, no treaty will ever be signed to end terrorism – the only option is to defeat the enemy. Though some believe this an insurmountable task, I am heartened by the words Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently spoke at the University of Southern Mississippi commencement ceremony: “We believe in God, and we believe in America…you can’t have any stronger beliefs than those.”
Our faith and our patriotism will guide us through any challenge and will help ease the pain of the losses we sustain as our service men and women fight to preserve freedom in the 21st century.
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