"Operation Desert Storm"
May 8, 1991
Mr. Speaker, Members of Congress and distinguished guests, it is a great day to be a soldier, and it is a great day to be an American. I want to thank you for the singular distinction of being allowed to speak to the special session of the Congress of the United States of America.
Indeed, I am awed and honored to be standing at the podium where so many notable men and women have stood before me. Unlike them, I do not stand here today for any great deed that I have done. Instead, I stand here because I was granted by our national leadership the great privilege of commanding the magnificent American service men and women who constituted the Armed Forces of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Before I go further, I must, through their Representatives who are here today, tell each and every one of those extraordinary patriots that I have no idea of what the future holds in store for me, but I do know one thing, I will never, ever in my entire life receive a greater reward than the inspiration that I received every single day as I watched your dedicated performance, your dedicated sacrifice, your dedicated service to your country.
Since I was fortunate enough to command these great Americans and since you are the elected Representatives of the American people, I would presume today to speak for our service men and women, through you, to the people of our great Nation.
First of all, who were we? We were 541,000 soldiers, sailors airmen, marines, and coastguardsmen. We were the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. We were the U.S. military and we are damn proud of it. But we were more than that. We were all volunteers and we were regulars. We were Reservists and we were National Guardsmen, serving side-by-side as we have in every war, because that's what the U.S. military is. And we were men and women, each of us bearing our fair share of the load and none of us quitting because the conditions were too rough or the job was too tough, because that's what your military is. We were Protestants and Catholics and Jews and Moslems and Buddhists and many other religions fighting for a common and just cause, because that's what your military is. We were black and white and yellow and brown and red and we noticed when our blood was shed in the desert it didn't separate by race but it flowed together, because that's what your military is. We fought side by side with brothers and sisters at arms who were British and French and Saudi Arabian and Egyptian, Kuwaiti and members of many other Arab and Western nations; and we noticed the same thing when their blood was shed in the desert -- it did not separate according to national origin. We left our homes and our families and traveled thousands of miles away and fought in places whose names we couldn't even pronounce simply because you asked us to and it therefore became our duty, because that's what your military does.
We now proudly join the ranks of those Americans who call themselves veterans. We are proud to share that title with those who went before us and we feel a particular pride in joining ranks with that special group who served their country in the mountains, and the jungles, and the deltas of Vietnam. We who were there and they served just as proudly as we served in the Middle East. And now that we have won a great victory, we dare to ask that, just as we were willing to sacrifice and fight to win the war, you be willing to sacrifice and search to win the peace.
We would like to offer our thanks. First, we would like to thank our God for the protection He gave us in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq. Most of us came home safely. We ask Him to grant a special love to all of our fallen comrades who gave their lives for the cause of freedom and we ask that He embrace to His bosom not only the 147 of us who were killed in action but also the 188 of us who gave their lives both before the war during Desert Shield and since the termination of Desert Storm. They, too, no less than our killed in action, died for the cause of freedom. We also ask that God grant special strength to our comrades who are still in hospitals with wounds and injuries they received during the war. By their example, we should all remember that the freedoms we enjoy in this great country of ours do not come without a price. They are paid for and protected by the lives, the limbs and the blood of American service men and women.
We would also like to thank our Commander in Chief for his wisdom and courage and the confidence he demonstrated in us by allowing us to fight this war in such a way that we were able to minimize our casualties -- that is the right way to fight a war. We would like to thank the Congress and former administrations for giving us the finest tanks and aircraft and ships and military equipment in the whole world without question. Without question that is what gave us the confidence necessary to attack into the teeth of our enemy with the sure knowledge that we would prevail. And we would ask that in the years to come as we reduce the quantity of our Armed Forces that you never forget that it is the quality of our Armed Forces that wins wars. We want to say a special thanks to our comrades in uniform who stayed behind. You backed us up so we could carry the fight to the enemy. You maintained the peace so that we could win the war. We never could have done our job if you hadn't done yours. We also want to thank our families. It is you who endure the hardships and the separations simply because you choose to love a soldier, a sailor, an airman, a marine, or a coastguardsman. But it is your love that gave us strength in our darkest hours. You are truly the wind beneath our wings. Finally and most importantly, to the great American people: The prophets of doom, the naysayers, the protesters, and the flag burners all said that you would never stick by us. But we knew better. We knew you would never let us down. By golly, you didn't. Since the first hour of Desert Shield until the last minute of Desert Storm, every day in every way all across America you shouted that you were with us. Millions of elementary school, high school and college students, millions and millions of families, untold numbers of civic organizations, veterans' organizations, countless offices, factories, companies and work places, millions of senior citizens and just plain Americans never let us forget that we were in your hearts and you were in our corner. Because of you when that terrible first day of the war came, we knew we would not fail, we knew we had the strength of the American people behind us and with that strength we were able to get the job done, kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and get back home. So, for every soldier, thank you America. For every sailor, thank you America. For every marine, thank you America. For every airman, thank you America. For every coast guardsman, thank you America. From all of us who proudly served in the Middle East in your Armed Forces, thank you to the great people of the United States of America.