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Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Captain Scott O'Grady

June 12, 1995

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, General Shalikashvili, to all the members of the Armed Forces here, the distinguished Members of Congress, the members of the O'Grady and Scardapane families, to our distinguished guests.

I am tempted to say that we actually arranged this weather today so that Captain O'Grady would know for sure that he was not going to be left high and dry. [Laughter]

We are all here to thank our men and women in uniform for the rescue of Captain Scott O'Grady. Their mission made all Americans proud, just as Captain O'Grady's courage has made all Americans proud. We know that the skill and professionalism of our Armed Forces and the intelligence that backs them up are unmatched. We know that the months, the weeks, the years in training someday, somewhere will always have to be put into effect. And last week, those of you who brought life to that training and saved one brave man's life said more about what we stand for as a country, what our values are, and what our commitments are than any words the rest of us could ever utter, and we thank you for it.

Consider this, that an F-16 pilot in Captain O'Grady's "Triple Nickel" squadron picks up a faint radio signal and relays it to an AWACS plane. Within minutes, the AWACS operators positively identify Captain O'Grady and pinpoint his location. Then just hours later, no less than 40 airplanes and helicopters are airborne, led by a combat search and rescue team from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, commanded by Colonel Martin Berndt. The AWACS aircraft, a marvel of our technology, guide two Super Stallion helicopters to within 50 yards of Captain O'Grady. In 2 minutes, the marines secure the landing site and whisk the captain to safety under hostile conditions.

When I spoke to Captain O'Grady once he was on board the U.S.S. Kearsarge, he told me his rescuers were the real heroes. Well, it can't be done any better than they did it. They showed our Nation and the world the best of our teamwork. When we finished our conversation, Captain O'Grady remarked, "Mr. President, I just want to say one thing: The United States is the greatest country in the world. God bless America." The men and women of our Armed Forces also bless our America with your service and your skills. Because you do your job so well, our Nation will always be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Now let me say it was a very great personal honor for me to host Captain O'Grady and all the fine members of his family, beginning with his grandparents and going down to his brother and sister and some of his friends, at the White House for lunch today. I can tell you that he certifies he got a better meal today than he did in those 6 days in Bosnia. But he gave us something more precious than we can ever give him, a reminder of what is very best about our country.

And I'd like to now ask Captain O'Grady to come up here and say what's on his mind and heart to the people who gave him back his freedom.

Captain Scott O'Grady.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:42 p.m. at the Pentagon.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Captain Scott O'Grady Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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