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Adm. Winnefeld's Veterans Day Remarks at the TSA Headquarters

By Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr.

Good morning everyone.  It is an honor for me to be here with you this morning.  It’s really fantastic to be on the work release program from the Pentagon.  

Thank you, John, for the kind introduction. 

And thank you to the men and women of the Transportation Security Administration for your warm welcome and for hosting this ceremony for not only the many Veterans that serve in this great agency, but all for veterans across the country. 

I’m honored to be here representing the more than 2.2 million men and women currently serving in uniform on Veterans Day. 

It’s a privilege today before we take an official day of remembrance, to be able to pause to honor all those who wear and have worn the cloth of our great nation . . . including many here today and elsewhere in this great organization . . . as well as your families.

For our entire history as a nation, citizens from every walk of life, of every stripe and color, and from every background have stepped forward, raised their hand, and taken an oath to “bear true faith and allegiance.”

They put on the uniform and they put their lives on the line …

From Lexington to Gettysburg,
From Belleau Wood to the Meuse-Argonne,
From Normandy and the Kasserine to Midway and the Pacific Islands,
From the Chosin Reservoir to the jungles of Vietnam,
and more recently to Iraq and Afghanistan.

From their sacrifices we emerged the strongest and most prosperous nation in history. 

And today’s generation of Veterans, those we call the 9/11 Generation, have likewise answered America’s call . . . in tour after tour in Iraq and Afghanistan and in our global operations around the world.

During the past 13 years, and this this organization was formed, more than 2.4 million citizens from every state and territory have volunteered to serve in a military uniform. 

That service is chronicled daily in the nation’s headlines. 

Whether combating extremist militants or a deadly infectious disease in Africa, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces are doing extraordinary work.

And we also remember and honor the sacrifices of our Veterans’ families as well.  Military life is truly a family business. 

With grace and resilience, military families endure the absence of loved ones and shoulder the burdens of long deployments, difficult separations, and moves across the country and overseas.

But the military isn’t alone in defending our precious homeland.

We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001. 

I was off the coast of Oman, steaming towards home, aboard USS Enterprise, watching in horror with the millions of other Americans on live TV as those consumed by hatred for our freedoms and our way of life attacked the innocent people of our nation.

Four weeks later, I was writing FDNY and NYPD in chalk – and a few other choice messages – on the first bombs to fall in Afghanistan – flown off the deck of the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise.

That was the first night of what has turned into a long struggle to prevent this kind of attack from happening again. 

And as you well know, the home game is absolutely critical to this fight. 

Created in the wake of that awful day, the TSA team every day strengthens the security of our nation’s transportation system.  And when I think about big government, when I think about an organization growing from literal scratch – over the 13 years of your – into what you’ve become today, I am truly amazed and impressed that we have been able to do this as a nation and put together this great organization. 

We share a sacred mission – to protect our nation and our citizens from our enemies. 

And in this mission, we have no option other than to be perfect all the time – there is no room for error. 

Like landing a jet fighter on the rolling deck of an aircraft carrier at night in bad weather . . . you either make it or you don’t.

There is no “half-way right.”  We either prevent an attack or we don’t. 
In my previous job, as the commander of NORAD and United States Northern Command, I frequently reminded our people that if we don’t work hard every day to get it right on the nation’s last line of defense, then we’re letting the people down who are on the front lines of defense.

TSA agents stationed throughout the United States serve this great nation in the same way.

They . . . you . . . protect our lives and our families . . . and we’re grateful to you all.

I know it can be a thankless job. 

But we haven’t had to use our enormous capability on the last line of military defense against a terrorist attack because your fabulous team has done such a great job all across our country.

So let me thank you personally for what you do each and every day to keep us all safe.

I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in and appreciate what you do every day to help keep us safe.

I also want to personally thank you for all you do as an organization to make a difference for our Veterans through initiatives like:

• The expedited screening services, which makes air travel easier for service members.

• The Wounded Warrior Program, which reduces stress of traveling for our wounded warriors and allows them to maintain their dignity while traveling.

• The Honor Flight Network, which transports Veterans and their escorts to Washington, D.C. area airports to visit the war memorials dedicated in their honor. 
• And, the Veteran recruitment program.  Veterans comprise 25 percent of this great workforce.  That alone is an impressive statistic – and one for which I am deeply grateful.   TSA is not only tapping into a huge resource in our Veterans – it’s a Win-Win situation - by allowing them to continue protecting the country they love. 

You make a difference for our Veterans every single day, every single one of you.  Whether you served in the Navy, Army, Air Force or the Marines… Are there any Marines here?  Happy Birthday!

So, on behalf of our men and women in uniform, and the rest of the citizens of this great nation, thank you for the exceptional relationship between the TSA and the U.S. military . . . and thank you for all that you do every day.

Not everyone in this country appreciates what you do, but believe me, we do.

Happy Veterans Day to every single one of you!