General Mark Milley

Address at the Opening of the National Army Museum

delivered 11 November 2020, Fort Belvoir, Virgina

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

As the 40th Chief said, what a great day for the United States Army to be celebrating the opening of this museum. And -- And there are thousands of hands that put this together. I want to say a particular thanks to Acting Secretary Chris Miller for being here today. Thank you, sir.

Tracy, you're here somewhere but thank you so much for what you've done pulling all together.

And of course General Sullivan who we just saw on the screen. He is -- He was a chief in our early years when we were lieutenants and captains and -- and chief you're still our chief. You were a great chief then. You're a great chief now. And thank you so much for your inspiration and your vision to bring this all to fruition.

And -- And of course thanks also on the passing of General [William W.] Hartzog, another great general officer in the United States Army.

Thanks Sergeant-Major [Michael A.] Grinston for your leadership in putting all this together.

And I do want to thank Sergeant [James] Akinola for being the soldier of the year. We'll see him in a few minutes. But thanks for being a great example of all that is good about being a soldier.

To all of you -- thank you. And to all of those of you who are watching thank you so much for participating in today's events.

Today is Veterans Day. And on the eleventh day, of the day eleventh month at the eleventh hour in 1918 the "war to end all wars" came to an end. It was the final day of 47 brutal days of fighting in the Meuse–Argonne, stopping today only because of the armistice that was declared to end the Great War. That offensive was the largest battle in U.S history, with 1.2 million Americans fighting and dying; and 26,000 of them paid the ultimate sacrifice in only 47 days, And it was made much worse by a global pandemic: the Spanish flu.

We cannot truly appreciate the sacrifice of our soldiers, from the Continental Army to today, or comprehend what they went through unless we see the weapons they used, feel the uniforms they w[ore], hear the stories they told, or read the letters they wrote.

You and I will never fight through the haze and the mustard gas of the Meuse-Argonne. We’re not going to hear the whiz and the snap of their mark rounds while assaulting the last 100 yards of Omaha Beach. And, no, we’re not going to suffer the blistering cold of the Chosin Reservoir or smell the smoke of the Ia Drang Valley.

But we can come here. We can see the relics and hear the stories through the eyes and the voices of the individual soldiers who endured so much for the cause of freedom and -- and their unrelenting devotion to the Constitution of the United States, the moral north star for all of us in uniform.

It is that document that gives purpose to our service.

It is that document that gives purpose to this museum.

And we in uniform are willing to die to pass it on to the next generation. In it, are the ideas and the values that make up this experiment called the United States of America.

And the motto of the United States Army for over 200 years, since 14 June 1775, the motto has been: "This we will defend." And the this refers to the Constitution, and to protect the liberty of the American people.

You see, we are unique among armies. We are unique among militaries,

We do not take an oath to a king or queen, a tyrant or dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe, or religion.

We take an oath to the Constitution and every soldier that is represented in this museum, every sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, each of us will protect and defend that document regardless of personal price.

That has been true across generations that are on display in this building
in this great museum, and allows all of us to connect and be forever tied to those who came before us. We will never turn our back on our duty
to protect and defend the idea that is America, the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Back when our army was first formed only 18 months later Thomas Paine wrote some famous words in an essay entitled The Crisis. And he wrote,  "THESE are the times that try men's souls." And, "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he who stands by it [now], deserves the love [and thanks] of man and wom[an]." For, "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered."

And from 1775 till today, the United States Army has stood there -- has stood on the wall, stood in the breach, and defended the liberty of Americans.

Thank you.

Happy Veterans Day.

And may God bless the United States Army.

And may God bless America.

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