George W. Bush photo

Remarks at the Farewell Tribute for General Richard B. Myers and Swearing-In for General Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Arlington, Virginia

September 30, 2005

Thank you for the warm welcome. It is a pleasure to join you in paying tribute to a fine American and a superb Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dick Myers. I'm glad to see the Myers family here: Dick's great wife, Mary Jo; their children, Rich, Nicole, and Erin; their grandchildren, Sophie and Cole. I know those grandkids are proud of their grandfather today; I want you to know, kids, you're joined by the Commander in Chief and the American people.

Today we also honor the outstanding Marine succeeding General Myers as the Chairman, General Pete Pace. I'm glad that Pete's family has joined us today: his wife, Lynne; their daughter, Tiffany; their son, Lieutenant Pete Pace; and the General's brothers, Tom and Simone; as well as his sister, Elizabeth and his mom, Doris.

I have come to know Pete Pace well during his time as the Vice Chairman. I appreciate his wisdom and commitment to serve, and I look forward to having Pete by my side in the years ahead.

I want to appreciate the Vice President for being here. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your continued strong leadership. I appreciate the Secretary of State, Condi Rice, joining us. I want to thank all the members of the administration who have come to pay tribute to this fine man and his wife. I particularly thank the President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, who served with Dick Myers for 4 years at the Defense Department. I thank the members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us.

When I asked Dick Myers to take his job back in the summer of 2001, I knew we had some important things in common. We both made a good decision early in life when we married a teacher. We both flew fighter jets, although I never won the Grey Eagle Award. We both knew it would take all of our combined strength, energy, and resolve to defend the American people—and to keep up with Don Rumsfeld. [Laughter]

When General Myers was sworn in as the 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 4 years ago, he joined a long line of distinguished military leaders that stretches back to General Omar Bradley. Every Chairman faced difficult tests, yet none took up his duties under more demanding circumstances than Dick Myers. In his first week as the Chairman, we launched strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. By the middle of December, American troops and our allies had driven the Taliban from power, put Al Qaida on the run, and freed more than 25 million people. In other words, Dick had plenty to do in his first 10 weeks on the job.

We asked more of General Myers in the years that followed. He helped design a broad and innovative military strategy to win the war on terror. His leadership and flexibility were essential to the liberation of Iraq and to adapting our tactics to defeat the terrorists and help Iraqis build a peaceful democracy. General Myers forged strong relationships with his military counterparts around the world and helped unite more than 90 nations in the war on terror.

He also helped us prepare for the new threats of the 21st century by helping transform the NATO Alliance and making our Armed Forces lighter, more lethal, and more capable of conducting joint operations. And as he did all this, he led our military through a series of extraordinary humanitarian challenges, from tsunami relief in Asia to the rescue operations along the gulf coast in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. General Myers brought skill and determination to all these tasks, and he leaves his post with a record of remarkable accomplishment.

Yet through every challenge, what stood out most about the Chairman was his total devotion to the men and women who wear the uniform. As he traveled the world, General Myers always made time to thank American forces serving in distant lands and to honor the sacrifice of military families here at home. He personally reenlisted service men and women in America and overseas. He advocated tirelessly for better pay and housing and benefits for our troops and their families. And he and Mary Jo made frequent visits to the wounded in military hospitals. General Myers often said how inspired he was by the selflessness and integrity and compassion of Americans in uniform. And he always inspired those under his command because they saw the same values in him.

I was reminded of Dick's convictions and ability every time he stepped in the Oval Office. As my principle military adviser, he brought a calm and reassuring presence, coupled with sound judgment and fresh thinking and unflinching candor. His approach was steady and practical. He had the vision to see the larger strategic picture and the tactical awareness one would expect from an experienced fighter pilot.

Over the past 4 years, I've also come to know General Myers's character and decency and his easy sense of humor. He's a kind and humble man who believes in serving a cause greater than himself. It says something that for all the medals on his chest and the stars on his shoulder, one of his proudest accomplishments came last summer when he was named National Father of the Year.

The General's qualities have long been known to those he works with. One of Dick's former bosses described him this way, "He's a level-headed guy. He doesn't panic. He eats pressure for breakfast, and he doesn't have a personal agenda." General Tommy Franks called him a "solid anchor in the building." A former colleague said he knew Dick Myers was down to earth when he saw the four-star general standing in line at the Pentagon cafeteria. Those who served alongside General Myers admired the dignity and purpose he brought to the job, and they'll always be proud to know one of America's best Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Another of General Myers's many strengths is his ability to bring out the talents of those around him. For the past 4 years, he has encouraged and benefited from the superb work of all the Joint Chiefs, especially his Vice Chairman. General Pace has shown himself to be a brilliant thinker and an inspiring leader. His life is a story of the American Dream. From his early years in Brooklyn and New Jersey to his days as a Midshipman in Annapolis, to his decades of service in Vietnam and Thailand and South Korea and Somalia and elsewhere, in every place he has been, Pete Pace has impressed those around him with his bravery, his knowledge, and his devotion to duty.

As Chairman, his leadership will build on the vital work set into motion under General Myers. I look forward to witnessing his swearing-in and to calling him the first Marine ever to hold America's highest military office.

Forty years ago, Second Lieutenant Dick Myers left Manhattan, Kansas, with an Air Force commission and the beautiful wife he married in the university chapel. Over the decades, Dick soared into the wild blue yonder and climbed to the highest ranks of the United States Armed Forces. He led our military to historic achievements in some of the most trying times America has known, and today he retires with the pride and appreciation of our entire Nation.

General Myers, I want to thank you for a lifetime of service to the United States. You have done your part to build a more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren, and we will always be grateful.

My God bless you and your family, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:41 on Summerall Field at Fort Myer. In his remarks, he referred to Gen. Tommy R. Franks, USA (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Central Command.

George W. Bush, Remarks at the Farewell Tribute for General Richard B. Myers and Swearing-In for General Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Arlington, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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