Finally, as I was contemplating this moment, I thought about something my wife Becky told me in January 2005, when I was asked to be the first Director of National Intelligence. I was really wrestling with the decision and finally told her she could make it a lot easier if she just said she didn’t want to go back to D.C. She thought a moment and replied, “we have to do what you have to do.” That is something military spouses have said in one form or another a million times since 9/11, upon learning their loved one received a deployment notice or is considering another tour of service.
Just under five years ago, when I was approached by the same president again to serve, Becky’s response was the same. As much as she loved Texas A&M and Aggie sports, and our home in Washington state, and as much as she could do without another stint in this Washington, she made it easy for me to say “yes” to this job. To do what I had to do, to answer the call to serve when so much was at stake for America and her sons and daughters in two wars. Well, Becky, we’re really going home this time. Your love and support has sustained me and kept me grounded since the day we first met on a blind date in Bloomington, Indiana, 45 years ago.
Shortly, I will walk out of my E-ring office for the very last time as defense secretary. It is empty of all my personal items and mementos, but will still have, looming over my desk, the portraits of two of my heroes and role models, Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George C. Marshall. It is from Marshall that I take a closing thought first delivered more than six decades ago in the opening years of the Cold War. Addressing new university graduates, Marshall extolled what he considered the great “musts” of that generation: They were, he said, “the development of a sense of responsibility for world order and security, the development of a sense of the overwhelming importance of the country’s acts, and failures to act.” Now, as when Marshall first uttered those words, a sense of America’s exceptional global responsibilities and the importance of what we do or do not do remain the “great musts” of this dangerous new century. It is the sacred duty entrusted to all of us privileged to serve in positions of leadership and responsibility. A duty we should never forget or take lightly. A duty I have every confidence you will all continue to fulfill.
Thank you. God bless our military and the country they so nobly serve.
–Secretary Robert M. Gates, 30 June 2011
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About the photoA UH-60 Black Hawk from Task Force 34, 1st Battalion 244th Assault Helicopter Battalion flies over a mosque during a routine flight on Feb. 27. www.army.mil