| WASHINGTON, May 17, 2007 Todays servicemembers reflect the same determination shown by those who fought for Americas freedom more than 200 years ago, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a message issued as the annual Armed Forces Day observance approaches.
Armed Forces Day -- always the third Saturday in May -- is observed May 19 this year.
Gates said many people are familiar with the opening of Thomas Paines treatise called The Crisis, written in defense of the then-fledgling American Revolution: These are the times that try mens souls.
Less familiar, he said, is a later passage from Paines essay: I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.
He whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.
Paine marched with Gen. George Washington and his men as they suffered unbroken defeat across much of New Jersey in 1776, Gates said.
He felt, first-hand, their lack of supplies needed to wage war or even subsist, Gates said. Yet he witnessed many who pursued the cause of liberty unto death.
Noting that he has met hundreds of todays servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, the secretary praised their courage and resolve despite the difficulties they face.
They and their comrades undertake dangerous missions, and endure physical hardships and separation from their families, he said. Yet they remain firm at heart. Their bravery is beyond measure. Todays young patriots carry the same determination Paine must have seen in their predecessors over two centuries ago.
Gates said the nation appreciates its servicemembers and their families, and he expressed the hope that all Americans will observe Armed Forces Day accordingly.
The American people, as one, are deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform and their families, and for their unshrinking commitment to pursuing the principles of our nation, he said. As we pause this Armed Forces Day to reflect on their service, I hope that each one of us will find a way to show them, as Paine encouraged in his treatise, the love and thanks of a nation.