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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the Military Child of the Year Awards

By As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Arlington, Va.
GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: We’re really delighted to be here again. This is the second year in a row we’ve gotten to do this, and the same thing happened to me this year that happened to me last year. And that is, I came kind of prepared and knowing what I wanted to say, and last year I walked in and I met Nate “The Great” (cheers, applause).

And there he is now, he’s got this iPad pointed at me – (laughter) – Nate, come on up here, man. (Laughter.) So check him out, Nate “The Great”. (Cheers, applause.)

So Nate was one of the awardees last year, and when I say he disarmed me, as – you know, you walk in and you think to yourself, you know, I’m the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Laughter.) Nobody is quite as cool as me. And then I met you, Nate, and in fact, you are as cool as me. (Laughter.) And what Nate does now, by the way, and I’m going to – and Alexander, one of the awardees tonight, does the same thing – is they blog, the use the web, and they’re in an anti-bullying campaign. Now, how great is that? (Cheers, applause.)

I asked him if he wanted to give my remarks and he said no. (Laughter.)

So I’m sitting over there and – my dinner guest, Annalese Knotts, who is a delightful dinner guest – (applause). Annalese, can you stand up? Third grade science and math. (Cheers, applause.)

Obviously Jim’s [Jim Knotts, CEO of Operation Homefront] daughter, and already a committed – committed to making the world a better place. Nice to meet you.

And of course, in a moment here Mary Jean will get up and give the – Mary Jean Eisenhower will get up and give the keynote address. And I am told, Mary Jean, that in my office – I only have a couple of – let’s call them artifacts. Some would actually accuse me of being one of them; I’m not. (Laughter.) But I have the original oil portrait of George Marshall; I have MacArthur’s desk when he was in the Philippines; and I have an oil portrait painted by Dwight David Eisenhower. And I said to Mary Jean, I said, “No pressure there, you know.” (Laughter.) Those three guys – we’re delighted to meet you tonight as we were to meet your sister, and what a grandfather. Congratulations.

And by the way, that’s kind of the spirit here tonight, isn’t it – families? If I talk about that, I was really impressed hearing about United Technologies. I’m actually one of the ones that know what United Technologies do – (laughter) – but when we hear about it in our aircraft engines, elevators, generators, this and that – I saw Jon Greenert lean over and say, if they had a distillery, I’m retiring right now. (Laughter.)

But – I don’t know; do you have a distillery? (Laughter.) Because I’d actually be a little interested in that (laughter).

So on this date in history – I’m a historian, I like to make sure we remember who we are and what we are. On this day in history in 1970, Apollo 13 took off. (Applause.) You remember – yeah. And we remember that’s a – for those of you that weren’t alive at the time, which is probably most of you, but we were – Houston, we have a problem. And when all was said and done, what allowed that mission to have a happy ending, a successful ending, was teamwork, dedication and ingenuity. And that’s kind of my image of military families, you know, teamwork, dedication, ingenuity.

It’s really – it’s a distinct honor to be here again this year, as Deanie and I were last year, to celebrate the military family. And I don’t want to steal the chief’s thunder, and you know, the CNO’s thunder, and they’re going to introduce their candidates, but I got to tell you, what an incredible, you know, group of young men and women, just as it was last year. My man over here, with the iPad. (Laughter.) And I said without any false sense of humility, I’m glad that I didn’t have to compete with them to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Applause.) These are incredible young men and women who not only made their parents proud, but do their schools proud, their friends proud, their communities proud and ultimately the nation proud.

I just came back from Afghanistan. I try to go there about every, I don’t know, couple of months or so. And by the way, you know, to the naysayers, I don’t mean anybody in this audience necessarily, but to the naysayers, you’re going to be wrong. Our young men and women in uniform are actually going to pull this off and they’re going to pull it off because they have confidence, they’re instilling that confidence in their Afghan partners and they are instilling, in turn, confidence in the Afghan people.

And it’s not going to be anything that you and I would recognize as perfect, for sure, but they’re going to pull it off and they’re going to pull it off because of the same spirit that those astronauts went to the moon in 1970 tried to. These guys and gals are over there just getting it done. And now they’re getting it done because they wanted to give you and me the chance to live the lives we want to live. And they want – they want these young men and women, who are going to be up here in a moment to get an award, to have the opportunity to be whatever they want to be. And I got to tell you, there’s no other country in the world, really – I mean, there’s a couple that come close, but there’s no other country in the world where you can be whatever you want to be. And I really mean that. (Applause.)

So I don’t want to steal General Ray Odierno’s thunder and – you know, he’s actually a lot bigger than me, so I have to be careful. (Laughter.) And – but I – you know, for example, you know I – and I said this date in history. So in 1997, the Army’s awardee tonight was born. So it’s actually her birthday. Where’s Nicole? (Cheers, applause.) Stand up, Nicole.

Now Ray, I’ll defer to you. Do you want to sing “Happy Birthday” or do you want me to do it? (Laughter.) OK, I got it. Here we go.

(Audience sings “Happy Birthday.”) (Cheers, applause.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: So a little-known fact. Her father will be promoted to brigadier general tomorrow. Where’s Ed? (Cheers, applause.) Thanks to the whole Daly family for taking that rock and putting it into your rucksack and giving the nation a great gift, for your service.

But it’s not just the Dalys, it’s all of the families. You know, we dual – like I said, I don’t want to steal the thunder of the chiefs or the CNO here, but dual military families move constantly, move frequently. And, you know, what sets military kids apart, of course, is that they have to earn a reputation and then we move them and they have to re-earn it and then we move them again and they have to re-earn it again.

And, you know, by the time they’re done – eight schools, you know, 12 moves, whatever it happens to be – they’ve had to kind of re-establish their bona fides, their credentials, who they are, multiple times. And I’ve got to tell you, my personal belief is it makes you stronger, it makes you more adaptable, it makes you more resilient and makes us damn proud of them. So let’s give them a round – (cheers, applause).

So I – I’m awful proud to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and represent the JCS, but also represent the – you know, a couple of million, give or take a few, young men and women in uniform and their families who are out there every day. They’re out there right now doing what the nation asks them to do. And behind them is this incredible network of families, and behind them, by the way, are organizations like Operation Homefront who make sure that we not only remember what they’re doing, but we support them and in the process.

God bless all of you. God bless the services. God bless these kids. And God bless America. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

Video: Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the 2013 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year Awards