Well, thank you all for being here for this great celebration of two terrific Army families. I’ll begin by adding my compliments to the Old Guard and Pershing’s Own for everything they do for their country—often and always with distinction. Let’s give them another round of applause. [applause]
Well, I'm honored be a part of this occasion and to see so many distinguished guests and friends, to include many great leaders of our military, past and present.
Ray, congratulations. It’s a privilege to be a part of this ceremony to thank and celebrate you and Linda for 39 years of exceptional service …. and to welcome Mark and Hollyanne Milley.
I’ll tell you … I’m up here representing two groups – one the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other, the former Chiefs of Staff of the Army – and I would like to begin by expressing the most profound compliment that professional military officers can share with each other, and that is simply, ‘well done.’
Linda, it’s appropriate to begin by thanking you for your strength and compassion for Soldiers and their families ... and for being a rock for Ray, beginning, of course, with your high school days in New Jersey ... and especially through those 50 long months – more than four years – in Iraq ... and for so much more. The grand arc of your beautiful military family represents to Deanie and I everything that’s great about being part of this military and about part of being a military family and I want to thank Tony, Katie, Mike, and you for your incredible sacrifice and service, and for your resilience.
Our Nation throughout its history has looked to its Generals to lead Soldiers during life and death struggles in the defense of the United States and in support of the principles we cherish. We're especially fortunate when history aligns leaders of talent, passion, and courage with our Nation’s greatest challenges ... which is certainly the case during your tenure, Ray Odierno.
The West Point Class of 1976 is alleged to be well-represented here today ... You ever notice that they always put them off way to the side so they can’t get into any mischief … yeah.
From his days on the fields of friendly strife, Ray's been a Soldier of the highest character, respected up and down the ranks for his relentless drive ... his sharp, strategic mind ... and most of all, his complete devotion to putting first our men and women in uniform and their families.
He's always believed that developing them into tomorrow's leaders is our greatest strength and our best investment in the future.
And whatever the challenge, Ray's always raised a passionate voice on their behalf, and he’s given it to us straight ... sometimes in words that I can't repeat in this setting.
Ray, you stand among the giants – quite literally – of our Army's history. And you've cast a long and lasting shadow across the Army and the Joint Force.
You leave behind an institution full of exceptional leaders capable of confronting the most complex challenges we face ahead … and I thank you deeply for all you’ve done for our beloved Army and for building the bench behind you. Your mark is not only in the history books as the 38th Chief of Staff, but also on the hearts and souls of thousands of lives you’ve touched in Iraq and across the globe.
[sound of aircraft flying over] … So, first a B-52 and now a C-17 … they must like you.
Deanie and I wish you, Linda, and your entire family the best in an extraordinarily well-deserved retirement. Personally, we look forward to seeing you in North Carolina at the RPL … which is code for the “Retired Pentagon Location”
And this reminds me that it’s a good time to end by remarks because nothing I say can compare to the symbolism and image you see before you.
I’ll end this way … Mark, now it's your turn. As an Army, we'll continue to learn and adapt. Smaller ... than at any time in our lifetimes. Different ... certainly. The best in the world ... you better believe it. Doing what the Nation asks ... absolutely.
In doing so, there's no more important mission than ensuring America's sons and daughters are ready—the best led, the best equipped and the best equipped force on the planet. I know you understand that, and Deanie and I thank you and Hollyanne and your family for taking on the task. Our Nation has placed its trust in you both, and so have we. You're an inspired choice to lead our Army into the future ... and you're going to be terrific. Army Strong!