Home : Media : Speeches

Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the Fisher House Foundation

By General Martin E. Dempsey
Washington, D.C. — GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: Thanks very much. It really is an honor for Deanie and I to be here with you tonight to take part in this wonderful event for the best of all causes. And so to all of you that are here, thanks.

I’m actually, like, one of three chairmen that are here in spirit, because of course, we have – we have the Pace chairman and the Myers chairman represented – (inaudible). So there’s really three chairmen here with you tonight.

By the way, I would also say, as I begin, that unlike the previous speaker, I wouldn’t say I love my job. (Laughter.) I mean, it’s a great job, but I can’t get up to the level of – when it comes to pace and the – and the issues that come across it.

But it is the most rewarding job. I love – I love my country, I love the men and women who serve. And tonight, I’ll tell you, I love the fact that you care about them as much as we do. So that, I will say, rises to the level of love, and we’ve got to keep that – and we’ve got to keep at that.

Brianna, thanks for the introduction, for your being the emcee tonight. I learned earlier that Brianna started the day with a softball game, and then came out and played golf, which, you know, is – for me, it’s pretty much the same game. I played both games pretty much the same way, you know, trying to rip the cover off the damn thing and see what happens. (Laughter.)

So actually, I want to thank you for not insisting that in order to be the keynote speaker, that I would also have to play, because frankly, you saved the course, you saved my ego, and you saved Deanie’s pride, because I really – the game I play would probably be unfamiliar to most of you, although it’s a great game.

You know, at some level, you all are all terrific, distinguished public servants because of what you’ve accomplished in your private lives, but also what you’re trying to give back. And that’s really my message here tonight, is that, you know, as Brianna said earlier, I think that what holds us together as a profession notably now – this is the military profession – is a sense of trust in each other. And that trust is magnified and made far more powerful when it extends into the American public.

And that’s what you do for us. You allow the American public – many of you are veterans yourself, but you allow the American public to touch us and us to touch you, and in particular in our support of Wounded Warriors, in a way that I think creates that bond of trust. That really is what ultimately will get us through the tough times ahead.

And by the way, there are tough times ahead. We’ve got another few years of effort in Afghanistan. And even if the conflicts that we find ourselves in were to end today, as someone that, as the director for the Veterans Administration reminded us, the last veteran of World War I just – Frank Buckles, just died in February [2011]. So we’ve got a commitment to make to our veterans, to our family members, to our military family that has to extend well beyond what will be some announcement here in the next couple, three years. And I ask you to take that on.

When it comes to the Fisher House in particular, Kent Fisher, the Fisher Foundation, the Fisher House in particular, I think that as we all get older and look back at history, I think the name Fisher and what it has come to mean to our generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will actually be iconic. And what I mean by that is, it’ll be one of the names that helps us understand how – what it meant to serve during this particular period of time. It’s that powerful. And so when folks say, well, I’m – you know, I’m really glad you came out here, and thanks for sharing your time, and I’m glad you were able to break away from the Pentagon – I said earlier, if Kent Fisher asks me for anything, I’ll do it.

Now, you know, I – obviously I got to be a little careful with that – because we do have drones and stuff, you know. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) – but I sincerely mean that – I sincerely mean that I have that kind of regard for the Fisher family and the foundation, those of you that have put this event together to continue your support of Wounded Warriors because I really believe that the name Fisher is now a matter of history. And I think that’s just terrific.

I also want to tell you I came from – I mean, it was really the – maybe the best picture I’ve ever had taken of myself just occurred tonight on this stage. The ability to stand here with a bunch of Wounded Warriors, knowing what they have sacrificed and knowing what that sacrifice means to it is pretty special. And I was able to be the opening speaker at the Warrior Games out in Colorado Springs just last week, another one of those events where, you know, you’re kind of torn with the – you know, pride but also, you know, this real deep sadness about what these young men and women – what we’re asking these young men and women to do.

The interesting thing to me is that they don’t feel it, though. I mean, they don’t feel the sadness of it. They don’t – they don’t want to be pitied. They just want a chance. They want a chance to be normal again, a new normal. It’s not the same normal, and they know that. But it’s really something to be around these young men and women who have suffered for their country, and then to be asked to be part of that. So thanks for – to those of you out there that are a member of that community of Wounded Warriors, thanks so much for agreeing to let me have my picture taken with you. And I’ll cherish that picture a great deal.

And then in that regard, as I mentioned, this is a long-term commitment. And so I’m real excited that this is the ninth one of these. But I hope I’m here for the 29th and the 39th, because I’m sincere when I say that this is – this is a challenge that will continue – that we will continue to confront. And it’s a challenge which I’m happy to see you’ve actually embraced. So it’s not a burden; it’s actually an opportunity. And I know that’s the way you think of it, certainly the way I think of it.

And I – as you – you know, as you all – you know, I’m pushing on an open door with you all. You’re here, you know, so you have made the commitment. And what I’m asking you to do I think is, as you go out and talk to your neighbors and friends and your fellow members in the corporate world, get them to see this as an opportunity, because I think if the nation sees the care of its soldiers and sailors and airmen, Marines and their families as an opportunity, we’ll be on the right – we’ll be on the right track. It’s not a burden; it’s an opportunity. And I’d ask you to take that on.

So the new Fisher House at Fort Belvoir – terrific. I was actually privileged to turn the first spade of dirt – me and about 16 other people who I – I don’t know exactly who they were, but we were – (laughter) – slinging dirt. And actually General Myers was there; he was one of them. But we were privileged to do that. We were excited about its coming to a completion.

I think that someone suggested that the Fisher Foundation has touched 160,000 families over the course – (applause). You know, I mean, that’s my point. And I think the Fisher name has become iconic in defining this conflict, a kind of conflict that – and what it takes to get through it. So 160,000 families, and my guess is before we’re done, it’ll be 320,000 families, because the – you know, the families – it’s a, it’s an extended family. And that’s the great part about the profession. And we’re sure happy you’re taking it on board.

So last thing I’ll go – the next to the last thing, the penultimate thing, as we say, is a quotation, because I think it really sums up what you’re all about, and it’s actually from Winston Churchill. I was looking for a nice, clever Irish guy to make it a quote, but I – I’m stuck with this British guy. (Laughter.) But Winston Churchill said that we make a living by what we get, but we make life by what we give. And that’s kind of the way I – frankly, I think about the Fisher Foundation and think about you.

So what it’s worth, from this chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanks very much for what you’re doing, for what you’ve been doing and, even more important, for what you’re going to do, because we’ve got to stick with this for quite some time.

And I said that was the penultimate thing. The last thing I wanted to do is live up to my reputation for never missing an opportunity to sing. (Cheers, applause.) And this song actually goes back to Desert Storm. And I’d like you to sing it with me, because it summarizes what we’re all about here. I’ll say the words first and then we’ll just sing one, maybe two choruses from that song. But you’ll remember it: When we – when we were needed – when we were needed, we were there. We were there when we were needed, we were there. It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always fair. But when freedom called, we answered. We were there.

I’ll sing the first time around. You better join me the second time. (Laughter.) And I will be watching. And I actually got security guys all over – (laughter) – because they – (inaudible). OK. Here’s how it goes: (Singing.) When we were needed, we were there. We were there when we were needed. We were there. Well, it wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always fair. But when freedom called, we answered. We were there.

Here we go. (Singing.) When we were needed – come on – we were there. We were there when we were needed. We were there. Well, it wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always fair. But when freedom called, we answered. We were there.

Thanks very much. (Cheers, applause.) (END)