Today I participated in the send off ceremony of the 186th Military Police Company at Camp Dodge. As mayor, I have the honor of representing our community at every sendoff and welcome home ceremony of Iowa National Guard units held in Johnston. Following are the remarks I made to our deploying soldiers:
It is truly an honor and a privilege to be here this afternoon to participate in this send off ceremony for you, the soldiers of the 186th Military Police Company.
On a recent trip to Washington DC, I visited Arlington National Cemetery – I’ve been there many times before. On display right now at Arlington is an exhibit entitled the Lost Heroes Art Quilt.
The quilt was created by artist Julie Feingold to honor fallen Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9-11. The quilt is particularly touching because it displays the pictures of 50 men and women – one from each state – as children who grew up to be soldiers and sailors, airmen and marines – and who fought and died for their country.
On a plaque below the quilt are the following words:
“When does a hero become a hero? Is there a seed of compassion or courage embedded in the embryo of a human being? Or is the desire to serve imparted by elders in a child’s earliest years? Whenever the inception, these extraordinary people decide to risk all for the benefit of the greater society…. And some make the ultimate sacrifice.”
As I stand here today, I am looking into the faces of 40 heroes. Every time you’ve been called to serve, you’ve responded. First, as part of Desert Storm/Desert Shield, and then as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and again as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This time you’re headed to Hondurous, as part of Joint Task Force Bravo. You are our heroes, each and every one of you. Thank you so much for your service.
Thanks also to your families, who along with you, make so many sacrifices so you can serve. This is an especially hard time to be leaving them. We do not want you to worry about them while you are away.
Iowans are very caring people – your families should never hesitate to reach out and ask for help. Whether it is shoveling the snow, running an errand or watching one child while your spouse takes the other to the doctor, your families should never feel alone. We’ve got their backs.
May God bless you and keep you out of harm’s way while you’re away. We look forward to your safe return.