Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall, Va. —
Secretary Hagel, service secretaries, I saw several of the Chiefs, the JCS, military leaders, civilian leaders. I’m mindful of the fact that as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, there’s many things that I’ve got to do. But there’s also a handful of things that remind me what a privilege it is that I get to do.
Today, I get to represent the men and women that serve America’s Armed Forces in uniform and their families in thanking two great patriots and American leaders. And I get to do that and I’m mindful of the great privilege it is to do so. Thank you all for attending this ceremony.
I sat with Chairman McKeon—by the way, I don’t know when the last time there were three chairmen sitting side by side by side on this field, but it’ll be a memory that I will keep for my lifetime. But we watched the fife and drum corps pass by, we marveled at the incredible precision of the troops arrayed on the field, we listened in awe to the national anthem as we do every time it’s played, but maybe today played with a little sweeter tune for the two of you, and I hope you think about it that way.
And what had occurred to me that you have done for America’s Armed Forces is made sure we remain the best—the best, by far. We overmatch, we dominate, we’re just the best. We’re the best musicians. We’re the best infantrymen. We’re the best Coast Guardsmen, sailors, airmen, Marines. We’re the best logisticians. We’re the best fighters. We’re the best, period. And that doesn’t happen by accident, and it happens with the kind of partnership that the Secretary of Defense mentioned, and it happens when we are partnered with two great leaders like the two of you.
I’d especially like to join Secretary Hagel in thanking Barbara Levin and Patricia McKeon, and all the friends and family who have supported our two honorees over the tenure of their Congressional careers. Thanks for being here today and for being there for them, and for being there for us through the years.
Both of these leaders have been absolutely steadfast champions of our Nation’s defense and of those who serve uniform. They will be missed by those of us who've been privileged to serve with them.
For more than five decades of combined service, these two remarkable public servants have worked to overcome the difficulties inherent in the defense of this Nation. They’ve worked across the aisle on many defense bills to determine—to help determine the kind of military the American people need and deserve—the right mix of capabilities and programs to protect our national interests. Their leadership has helped make our Nation’s military the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped force in the world, ever.
Chairman Levin, I owe you a personal debt of gratitude. If you hadn’t been such a staunch supporter during several confirmation processes for me, I might have preceded you in retirement. Come to think of it, I’m not sure whether to thank you or to blame you!
And Chairman McKeon, your leadership on the House Armed Services Committee has been so legendary that your colleagues have renamed the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act after you. I’m just glad your name won’t be on the appropriations bill because I don’t want there to be any confusion about who gets that money!
And Chairmen, plural, on behalf of our men and women in uniform and their families, just let me simply thank you for your leadership, for all you’ve done for our nation. Your devotion to the men and women of the Joint Force will continue to resonate throughout the ranks. We will proudly be part of your congressional legacy. Thank you very much.