- Louis J. Blazy, III
- Assistant Director, Information Technology Operations Division
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Veterans Day Celebration at the Greater Falls Church Veterans Council
- Falls Church, Virginia
- November 11, 2006
Good morning. I want to thank my friend Roger Neighborgall, President of the World War II Ranger Battalions Association, and the Greater Falls Church Veterans Council for inviting me to join you today. It is truly an honor to be here on behalf of the FBI and to be in the company of so many veterans. You are the reason we are here to celebrate.
We have all come together to pay tribute to the more than 48 million Americans who have worn the uniform during war and peace. Nearly 25 million of them are living today. This is one of the best times to live in the Washington, D.C. area—if you go down to the National Mall, you will see veterans of all ages, who have come from every part of the country to commemorate, honor, and to celebrate in the nation’s capital.
You will see them beneath the arches of the National World War II Memorial, reuniting with former comrades. You will see them at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, laying wreaths beside the Pool of Remembrance. You will see them at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, tracing the names of their fallen friends from the wall.
Their presence reminds us of the debt we owe to all those who have served throughout our nation’s history. Yet we are also mindful that hundreds of thousands of Americans are serving right now, in many corners of the world.
As you might guess, many FBI employees are veterans who joined the Bureau after their military service because they wanted to continue serving America. For almost 100 years, the FBI has built a reputation as a world-class law enforcement agency, whose primary mission was to protect Americans from crime. But September 11 added greater depth to our mission and greater responsibility to the American people. Today, the FBI is not just a world-class law enforcement agency. The FBI is also a world-class counterterrorism and intelligence agency. Our highest priority is preventing terrorism.
You all know that the FBI is on the front lines of the war on terrorism here at home. What you might not know is that the FBI is also serving on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, working alongside U.S. military forces.
The FBI has a substantial number of personnel currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, including special agents, intelligence analysts, and bomb technicians. Their primary mission is to support our military forces in an intelligence capacity—because in this global war, the most valuable weapon we have is intelligence.
The FBI’s job is to look for threat intelligence overseas that indicates a possible connection to America—or to American interests in other countries. As we learned on September 11, terrorists do not have to be in the same country or even on the same continent to plan, finance, and carry out attacks.
For example, a terrorist safe house in Afghanistan might contain documents that discuss a potential terrorist operation that targets U.S. citizens or interests worldwide. It might contain latent fingerprints, incriminating photos or electronic media, or other suspicious items. One tiny scrap of evidence—a fingerprint, a fuse, a computer disk, a cell phone—could be the key to preventing another terrorist attack and to protecting our forces on the front lines. The FBI’s mission is to identify actionable intelligence and share it with all of our partners so that together, we can prevent potential attacks.
The skills of FBI agents, analysts, and technicians complement the skills of our soldiers. FBI personnel support every aspect of military operations, from interviewing detainees and witnesses, to collecting and processing evidence from crime scenes, to analyzing explosives, to engaging in enemy combat beside our soldiers.
As the veterans here can attest, in the midst of a sensitive military operation, you don’t always have the luxury of time. The mission of the U.S. military—and of the FBI—is to get the right information to the right people at the right time. Once our soldiers kick in the door of that safe house, they need to gather information and process evidence quickly. This is why it is so valuable to have FBI personnel working alongside them.
And when I say “alongside,” I mean it literally. FBI agents go out on missions with the military, sometimes finding themselves under fire. The FBI is in the trenches in Afghanistan and Iraq, ducking gunfire, securing villages, analyzing improvised explosive devices, helping wounded soldiers, and dismantling terrorist groups.
Whether they are Marines, Army Rangers, Navy or Air Force pilots, or FBI agents, they are working as one team. Their jobs may be different, but their mission is the same: protecting America and defending freedom.
Fifty years ago, it would have been unheard of for the FBI to be in war zones on far-off shores. So much has changed in our world, yet the commitment of our service men and women has remained the same. The millions of veterans we honor today came from all walks of life and then walked into places most of us would dare not go. They stepped into harm’s way to keep us out of harm’s way.
I come from a military family. I am a veteran. My father was a veteran and fought in Korea. My mother spent nearly 20 years at the Pentagon serving the military as a civilian. My son is presently serving as a fighter pilot for the Navy.
My father-in-law was a highly decorated veteran. He served in World War II, Korean, and twice in Vietnam. He was awarded a Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and over 27 air medals.
My mother-in-law was a flight nurse during World War II and helped evacuate wounded soldiers from front line engagements such as Omaha Beach in France. What many people might not know is that flight nurses in World War II were always deployed to the front lines to evacuate wounded and dying soldiers.
I have always had a deep appreciation for the value of military service and a deep admiration for those who lead troops. It has always amazed me that somehow, our military leaders have been able to inspire and lead young men and women to do things they never imagined they could do—often in the face of tremendous odds. They are able to transform a seemingly insurmountable task into an unambiguous act of duty.
And sometimes, those acts of duty change the course of history. Look at Joshua Chamberlain, a colonel with the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. On July 2, 1863, he found himself defending Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg. Many of you may know the story. Confederate forces were storming the hill, striking over and over. Ammunition was running low, and many soldiers had been killed. But Chamberlain knew that Little Round Top had tremendous tactical importance. He knew that if the Union soldiers did not hold it, the battle would probably be lost.
Chamberlain had to think fast. He commanded his soldiers to charge downhill with their bayonets in a dramatic, daring maneuver. They were successful—they held Little Round Top. That proved to be the turning point for the Battle of Gettysburg. And many historians consider the Battle of Gettysburg the turning point in the Civil War.
At the dedication of the Maine monument at Gettysburg in 1888, Joshua Chamberlain said, “It is something great and greatening to cherish an ideal…to set aside the near advantage…and to act for remoter ends, for higher good, and for interests other than our own.”
Today is a day to thank our veterans for putting aside their own interests and serving America. But we honor not just those few who have made it into the history books. We honor every man and woman who has guarded a post, led a mission, or tended a wounded soldier. We honor every private and pilot, every airman and ensign, every sergeant and Seal.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I saw my son off at National Airport. He was headed back to his base in California after a short visit home. As we watched him walk down the terminal toward his plane, an elderly man approached us. He said, “What branch of the military does your son serve in?” I proudly told him my son was an F-18 pilot in the United States Navy. The man paused, and then said, “Please tell your son thank you.”
I also want to say thank you to Corporal Andy Anderson’s family for his service and his bravery and honor the sacrifice he made for our great nation.
From all of us at the FBI, I thank each and every veteran for your sacrifice and service. May God bless you all, and may God bless America.