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Their Gift to the Nation

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
December 28, 2009


When President Obama concluded his news conference Thursday on health care and began to walk from the podium, a question rang out: "What about our troops?" I didn't hear the answer, and I'm sure Mr. Obama is preparing a message for them. But the question startled me because in the day's bustle, I had forgotten them, those who deserve to be remembered every day and certainly on Christmas Day and throughout the holidays, when we bask in our good fortune and our families.

There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, marines, coast guards, active duty personnel, and reserve and national guards serving the world over. They are in Japan, South Korea, the Middle East, Europe, and in and around Africa. There are legions more in America. They are almost everywhere and prepared to go anywhere. Especially, they are in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting and sacrificing because their country-we and our leaders-said we needed them to protect us, to leave their families and their peaceful lives for our security, our values, our way of life. And they had slipped from my mind until I heard that question ring out Thursday morning, "What about the troops?"

The worst of it was that they were very much on my mind, especially these last several weeks. I just spent several terrific days with the cadets at West Point (under Lt. General "Buster" Hagenbeck) and the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis (under Vice Admiral Jeff Fowler) giving speeches and teaching classes.


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