“Mayor Cohen, RADM Summitt, Captain Abernethy, Captain Campbell, Ms. Kristen LeMieux (representing Senator Rick Larson), veterans and family members of past Patrol Squadrons, honored guests, citizens of Oak Harbor, good morning.
First let me say that it is an honor to stand here today and I am humbled to be a part of this ceremony. I have had the privilege to serve our Navy for over 27 years and I can honestly tell you that each day I remain on active duty I feel more and more fortunate to be in the company of such great Americans.
I am also thankful for the many brave sailors that have come before me that paved the way for all of us on active duty today… like the brave airmen we are honoring.
I’d also like to give a warm and special welcome to the family members of those lost that are in attendance today. We appreciate your sacrifice and we value the service of your loved ones.
You might have noticed some sailors in flight suits in the audience. They represent each active Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron not currently deployed, stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. I asked them to wear flight suits in honor of all patrol and reconnaissance airmen past and present. Aviators wear flight suits, it is what we are most comfortable wearing, the bag as they are affectionately referred to is an important part of Naval Aviation and the evolution of the flight suit has a long history. It is part of our culture. I would like to extend a warm welcome to these great Americans serving their country today… in war time they are carrying on the tradition of excellence in combat.
And I believe that our record in combat is directly tied to the standards and traditions of excellence and bravery that squadrons like VP-2 set for us. The proud heritage and can do spirit of those that came before us carries on in all of us. In 1943, VP-2 was engaging enemy submarines in the Caribbean. They were fitted with ground attack weapons for convoy protection and other related roles. In the 1950’s VP-2 deployed to the Korean Theater of Operations, flying combat missions in support of the United Nations. In the 1960’s they deployed to the combat zone in Southeast Asia.
As all this was happening a new threat emerged, Communism and with that Patrol Aviation expanded following World War II building a force capable of locating, tracking and, if needed kill an enemy submarine of any and all types no matter how sophisticated. The United States and its allies committed to preserving democracy not just at home but around the world. We saw an enemy capable of destroying the world and the submarine was one of the primary instruments.
It is not an understatement that Patrol Aviation’s ability to conduct anti-submarine warfare at such a high level was a major contributing factor in our victory over the Soviet Union during the cold war. Long hours of patrol and monitoring, playing cat and mouse with the enemy submarines in the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, off the eastern United States, in the Bering Straits and Sea of Japan, in the Mediterranean and anywhere we could chase the Russian Bear… wore the enemy down. This monumental effort was a Navy mission and we did it well. The goal was to never let an enemy sub go undetected and unmonitored. This kind of effort requires skill, tenacity, perseverance and arrogance. The kind of arrogance that comes from long hours of hard work by both maintainers who fix our aircraft and the aircrews who flew them. These people knew that they could prosecute and if needed kill the enemy when and if the order came, anytime, anywhere. In short, we were in our heyday and we won.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s the focus of patrol and reconnaissance aviation moved away from open ocean anti-submarine warfare and major Soviet fleet monitoring to a more littoral and overland operation as the Soviet bloc countries fragmented. And of course today we have a new enemy which manifested itself just over five years ago when they flew planes into buildings on our sovereign ground. Patrol and Reconnaissance crews are now chasing this enemy around the world.
However, we have not forgotten nor have we been deterred from maintaining our main war fighting discipline, our core mission of Anti-submarine warfare. We have a renewed focus even as we contribute to the Global War on Terror. We maintain a robust ASW capability designed to stop the next significant and lethal submarine force.
The Navy leadership and congress recognize the importance of being able to detect, localize and kill enemy submarines today and into the future as one of our highest priorities. In the not too distant future you will see Boeing 737 jets on the flight line replacing the venerable and capable hero of the cold war, the P-3. This new ASW platform, multi-mission maritime aircraft will have the most sophisticated mission equipment possible and will take our ASW capability well into the 21st century. It is one of the Navy’s highest priority acquisitions.
Of course the hardware is only one piece of the equation. As we all know it is the people that are the reason we can execute our mission at a level unmatched by any nation in the world. I would submit to you that our men and women who serve today are carrying on your legacy of dedication and talent. They are smart, energetic, they have a profound sense of patriotism, and they are willing to do what it takes to win.
My boss sent me an email on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 just a few days ago. His words convey the thoughts and feelings of many of us but these words could easily apply to those brave shipmates from past wars who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. Quote:
We all remember well where we were and what we were doing five years ago. Today is a good day to remember those who lost their lives, and their families that were left behind.
It is a good day to reaffirm our Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, and to our country. We all understand the high cost of freedom, and together work hard at paying that price for the benefit of our families, our countrymen, and to keep America strong.
Today it is fitting for us to re-dedicate ourselves to our work, and the task of ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism. Many of us have wondered why we were spared while others lost their lives. God’s plan for each of us is hard to understand so I will instead dedicate my time and energy in doing what we can do together to make a difference in this war to defeat the terrorists.
I believe the reason we serve is as simple as this—because we realize it is an honor to wear the cloth of our nation in defending America and all she stands for. It is also a tremendous honor to come to work each day knowing that beside us will be many of America’s finest sons and daughters. Our sailors are as committed as any American who ever wore the uniform, and I thank each and every one for their selfless service.
Consider what today, this very moment in time, means about your service in our Navy. This time is one of great challenge and change, for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, for our Navy and for our nation. We are each being called to give our very best. Years from now we will all look back and realize, to a much greater degree than we can now, just how fortunate we were to be able to serve when the need was so great. End quote.
Former Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral George Anderson, said “The Navy has both a tradition and future—and we look with pride and confidence in both directions.” When I look in this audience, I see true warriors that set a proud tradition for the rest of us to follow. When I look at this statue I see a proud warrior from the past, but I also see the present day warrior in his face. No matter our rank, race or gender, we can all understand the look of determination, as well as the slight tired look from long hours of on station in less than ideal conditions, extreme cold, blazing heat, excessive vibration and the all night burners. But what shows the most is the pride in doing a job worth doing and doing it well. We are all connected through time to a common bond, Patrol Aviation and its superior record of accomplishment. We thank the brave airmen we honor today and the many others who came before us for setting the bar high.
In closing, I would like to give a special thanks to the Whidbey Memorial Committee for it’s hard work in making this memorial a reality. I would like to thank the Mayor and the town of Oak Harbor and surrounding areas for the great relationship the civilian and military share and for accepting us as a part of the town’s community.
Thanks to all of the veterans for showing their support today, as well as active duty members who could take time out from their busy schedules to show their support for the memorial. And as we leave here today, remember to occasionally look back as this statue does, to remember our lost shipmates. Thank you and may God bless Patrol and Reconnaissance Aviation and our fallen comrades and their families.”