By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 3, 2009 - Twelve servicemembers were honored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs for their exemplary service here last night during the institute's annual dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Each of the five military service chiefs and the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command received the 2009 Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Distinguished Service Award, while six other servicemembers, each nominated by their respective military departments and the U.S. Special Operations Command, received the institute's Grateful Nation Award for their service throughout the past eight years.
"We are here this evening to celebrate our country and to honor and respect the men and women who protect and defend us," Bob Friedman, a vice president with the institute, said. "We celebrate the strength of our government, our people and our institutions.
"We're here to celebrate heroism, service, sacrifice and country," he continued. "The five service chiefs and the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command ... and our young Grateful Nation Award recipients are the embodiment of those qualities."
The 2009 Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Award recipients are:
-- Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff;
-- Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway, Marine Corps commandant;
-- Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations;
-- Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, Coast Guard commandant;
-- Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff; and
-- Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
The 2009 Grateful Nation Award recipients are:
-- Army Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske, a reservist with the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 104th Division, Fort Lewis, Wash., who served with distinction in combat April 2008 in Afghanistan and was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals;
-- Marine Corps Cpl. Richard S. Weinmaster, a recovered wounded warrior formerly assigned to the 7th Marine Regiment's 2nd Battalion, who distinguished himself in Afghanistan and was awarded the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for gallantry in July 2008;
-- Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer John W. Marcum, a SEAL who served with distinction on several deployments in Afghanistan and has been awarded four Bronze Stars with valor since Sept. 11, 2001;
-- Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Thomas L. Boyles, who served honorably in overseeing the decontamination of personnel and equipment at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York, and also was recognized for his actions in response to the Columbia shuttle disaster in February 2003 and other missions since 9/11.
-- Air Force Maj. Austin A. Moore, an MQ-1B Predator pilot, who has flown more than 250 combat sorties in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, gathering key intelligence information in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; and
-- Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher B. Grove, who distinguished himself in Afghanistan in April 2009 and was awarded the Bronze Star with valor for his direction of precision air strikes under fire.
"Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are a force for good in the world," Friedman said. "If we forget to be grateful for the blessing of this country, we do ourselves a disservice. This evening is given to celebration of the best of who we are and what we do."
Casey echoed Friedman's remarks, noting that his soldiers and the armed forces are in their ninth year of fighting in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. He noted that more than a million troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and that last year alone, more than 275,000 men and women enlisted or re-enlisted in the Army, Army National Guard or Reserve, knowing they would likely see combat.
"I'm amazed at the resilience and the strength of these forces," Casey said. "You can feel very good about the future of our country."
Roughead talked about the example set by past sailors and military members and how their service will always be remembered. Particularly, he spoke about Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher, whose fighter jet was shot down over Iraq on the first day of Operation Desert Storm, Jan. 16, 1991. His remains were finally discovered by Marines in Iraq's Anbar province in August.
"He was lost to his family, he was lost to his community, and he was lost to his shipmates, but those who serve today and those who've served over the years have never forgotten about him," Roughead said. "I believe that that speaks about the spirit, the tenacity and the commitment and the courage of those who serve."
Marine Lt. Gen. George J. Trautman, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation, accepted the award on Conway's behalf. He lauded the military service chiefs for their accomplishments and the courage of the troops they lead.
"As a Marine, I stand in awe of [the award recipients'] collective accomplishments in service to our country," Trautman said. "As citizens in the world, we should be proud to represent and honor the brave men and women of the military who are willing to preserve true freedom at any cost."
Olson noted that more than 12,000 members of the special operations community are present in 80 countries, and though they're engaged in direct combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, many are "moving ahead of the sounds of guns, contributing to stability, to the long-lasting effect" of peace.
Schwartz talked about the sacrifice of military families throughout the past decade of war. He simply asked the audience to stand and applaud the families' dedication and support.
"It's important that each of us recognize that while the military member is honored here tonight, that there is a vital component that also serves, and that is the spouse and the families."
Allen said few honors are greater than talking about the men and women of the Coast Guard. Those servicemembers are operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, guarding oil platforms in the Arabian Gulf and managing the border with Russia at the Bering Sea. They also monitor the U.S. borders and answer the call of homeland security.
"We are on watch around the world," Allen said. "We are protecting our national vital interests, but we are also permanently deployed in defense of our homeland, working with our partners every day to ensure that when people get up, they have a safe, secure and resilient America.
"You can be very proud of this generation," he continued. "We truly have another great generation out there that is serving this country well."
The Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Distinguished Service Award was named for the former U.S. senator following his death in 1984. Past recipients include chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen in 2008, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in 2007, U.S. Sen. John McCain in 2006, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace.