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I am the American serviceman, I serve in the forces which guard my country and protect our way of life, I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I remain dedicated to the principles which made my country free, for I defend the rights of all free men.

So begins the Code of Conduct for all service men and women serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

However, each of us is that soldier. We are the product of centuries of traditions that founded and built our nation. From the landing of the Pilgrims to the "shot heard around the world." Through the birth of our republic, to the wars fought on foreign soil, and the struggles within our own borders, we have inherited our proud role as the citizen soldier...defending the principles that established our country's foundation.

Because of the seriousness of their responsibilities, our Armed Forces must understand and totally dedicate themselves to their task and accept the duty that is theirs as protectors of the United States of America.

To help us better understand the heritage of that responsibility, let us reflect back two centuries when a small group of devoted idealist pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in dedication to a document separating thirteen colonies from the most powerful empire in the world, to form a new nation.

The Founding Fathers of our country signed the Declaration of Independence at great personal risk. Their numbers were small, and alone, they could do very little against the powerful British Crown. The task of ensuring the survival of the United States was entrusted to the patriot soldier.

Try to imagine, a bleak, frozen, dirty encampment, where thousands of poorly trained, ill equipped men are gathered together in small groups against the bitter cold. Men died daily of exposure, starvation, and a variety of untreated diseases. These men were not prisoners, they could leave at any time and return to the safety and warmth of their families. Why then, did these men accept and stubbornly endure such hardships?

They were the brave men of Valley Forge, rallied together for a common cause, a dream of freedom, a desire to worship as they saw fit, the right to speak out against oppression, injustice, and tyranny, without fear of reprisal.

Because of these patriots, their bravery, perseverance, and sacrifice, a new nation was born. "The United States of America."

It is from these patriots and those that have followed that our young men and women have inherited their responsibilities as members of today's Armed Forces. They must accept the duty which is theirs in order to maintain the just cause and ideals for which these patriots suffered and died.

Although the security of our nation depends so greatly upon its Armed Forces, many times the rewards to the individual soldier are not very evident. Constantly remaining ready to defend our country means days of endless training, of loneliness, days when they are cold, hungry, frightened. Why then, should our young service men and women dedicate themselves to a profession that will surely expose them to such bitter hardships?

The answer to this question was found scrawled on a combat ration box at Khe Sahn, Vietnam, after a fire base had finally been relieved following a 6 month siege.

It read..."You have never lived until you have almost died, for those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know."

The sacrifices of defending the United States has always been asked of its youth. The mothers and sweethearts of America have sent their young men to battlefields around the world in answer to the call of freedom......and throughout the 200 year history of our great nation, no generation has been spared "The Hell of War."

To each war, America has sent a cross section that has personified our nation: The rich, the poor and the middle class. The scholar and the high school drop out, the big city type, the small towner and the farm boy, or all races creeds and colors.

Some went to return in good health, others...to carry the scars of battle for a life time, and still others...to the judgment seat of God.

At Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Getteysburg, Shiloh, in the trenches of France, on the beaches of Guadalcanal, in the frozen mountains of Korea, the steaming Jungles of Vietnam, and in the deserts of Iraq, the youth of America have vividly demonstrated that our country's very existence has always depended upon its patriot warriors, those Americans who have taken up arms in recognition and acceptance of their duty.

In the past three generations America has demonstrated the magnitude of the supreme sacrifices that the American serviceman has been willing to make for freedom. Since the beginning of World War I, over 621,000 Americans have given their lives in battle.

Freedom is not a prize to be given to a person just because they were born in  America. Freedom is the responsibility of every man, woman, and child in the United States. It is the duty of each of us to preserve the priceless heritage of freedom that our warrior patriots have fought so valiantly for.

The American servicemen above all our nation's citizens, have repeatedly displayed traits of honor. They fought in the great war that preserved our country, and they have been sent into conflicts that were unpopular, both at home, and abroad.

They have held their position on the battlefield in the face of overwhelming odds.....many times without the hope of relief. Yet, they continued to fight, knowing that their countrymen were living the best lives they had ever known, while they were suffering under the worst conditions of their lifetime.

They have suffered inhuman indignities at the hands of their captors, without loosing faith in their cause. When their fellow countrymen were too busy to donate blood for the wounded, they gave their own blood to their injured comrades.

When they became aware of the suffering in the countries where they fought, they gave their own pay and time to care for the sick and the homeless. They have built orphanages and hospitals, and given their own rations to the starving.

The honor that has become the hallmark of the American Servicemen is the product of the reflection of the very fiber of our country. Not only should we honor these brave Americans who have died in defense of our country we should give due respect to those who have served with honor for they are truly our vanguard of freedom.

They are the ones who paid the ultimate price to make our country safe, enabling our people to have the freedom to make great discoveries, develop industries, and most importantly, to have the right to speak out freely, to practice the religion of their choice, without the fear of persecution, and, to exercise more personal freedoms than in any country on earth.

Those who did not suffer the bitter scars of war cannot fully relate to all that they have sacrificed and accomplished, but what they have done for our country cannot be repaid in any small measure.

Ever since that document written to sever the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain, not one single dream of those men of vision would have come true, without the people willing to put on the uniform of the United States.

Without the blood of the American warrior to pay for it, the United States would have become nothing but words scribbled on a piece of old parchment... a dead dream!

Whether a Sailor or Airman, Marine or Guardsman, Army rifleman, a man or woman, the American soldier is the single most important figure in our country's history...and destiny!

Let us remember the immortal words of President Abraham Lincoln as he gave tribute to the American Patriot.

"It is ours to be dedicated to the task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased dedication to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion. That we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and its government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The very nature of their service was...and is!

Duty - Honor - Country!

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