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American Forces Press Service

Myers Steps Down as Chairman, Bids Farewell to Troops

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2005 It's just as important to fight for American ideals today as it was in 1776, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said today during his Armed Forces Farewell Tribute.

Myers retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and swore in his successor, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, during the ceremony.

In an emotional speech, Myers thanked President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Joint Chiefs, his family and his staff for their trust and perseverance. He also thanked servicemembers everywhere for what they do to defend America, its ideals and its allies.

Myers spoke about the lessons contained in David McCullough's book "1776." The author said one of the lessons of the American Revolution is that men and women sometimes must fight to protect the America's freedoms and its values. "If our predecessors in arms hadn't persevered, all the noble words, all the high ideals, all the promises of the Declaration of Independence were just words on paper," Myers said. "We forget that it wasn't just what Jefferson had written that mattered, ... it was the people fighting for those ideals.

"I'm honored and privileged to have spent more than 40 years working with people who believe that too," he said.

Myers served as the highest-ranking military officer through four tumultuous years, Bush said in his remarks. "Every chairman faced difficult tests, yet none took up his duties under more demanding circumstances than Dick Myers," the president said. "In his first week as the chairman, we launched strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. By the middle of December, American troops and our allies had driven the Taliban from power, put al Qaeda on the run, and freed more than 25 million people."

Myers also served as senior military adviser to the president, vice president, and secretaries of state and defense during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Joint Task Force Horn of Africa's operations, and natural disasters.

Myers also helped design and put in place a broad and innovative military strategy to win the war on terror. "His leadership and flexibility were essential to the liberation of Iraq and to adapting our tactics to defeat the terrorists and help Iraqis build a peaceful democracy," Bush said.

Myers worked behind the scenes to develop strong ties with allies and helped forge the coalition against terror. "He also helped us prepare for the new threats of the 21st century by helping transform the NATO alliance and making our armed forces lighter, more lethal and more capable of conducting joint operations," Bush said.

Myers said that he is proudest of the way American servicemembers continue to do their duties. He said the American military is the best fighting force on the planet. But it is not enough to be warriors, the men and women in uniform also take the values of America with them wherever they go, he said.

"You fought and defeated two brutal regimes and brought freedom to 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, people who now vote for their government officials, people who can express their opinions and chart their own hopeful futures, the same rights our predecessors fought for in 1776," he said.

"Despite all the demands we place on you, you're always looking for new ways to do even more to help people," he said. "You literally take my breath away. I'm so honored to have the privilege to wear this uniform alongside you.

"In the end, we are just reflections of all those we've known and loved over the years. So as I say farewell, I realize that any success I've had was only possible because of all of you," he continued. "Thank you for being here today and for being part of this great adventure with the Myers family. Godspeed to you all. God bless our troops. And God bless America."

At the end of the ceremony, a ceremonial flyover honored Myers, an Air Force fighter pilot who flew over Vietnam in F-4 Phantom IIs. One of the aircraft passing overhead was a Phantom.

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