Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
81st Armored Brigade Departure Ceremony
February 7, 2004

Good afternoon. I am honored to be here. I want to begin by thanking Katie Webster for that stirring rendition of our national anthem.

Today we honor you—the brave men and women of the 81st Armored Brigade. You are our heroes.

On behalf of the people of Washington, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for defending our security, our freedoms, and our way of life. We salute your strength of character and dedication to duty. We owe you a debt of gratitude we can never repay.

We profoundly appreciate each and every one of you. Our communities benefit from your unique perspectives and diverse backgrounds and contributions as civilians. We will miss you more than you will know during your tour of duty. And we will pray for and look forward to your safe return. Until then, we will carry you in our hearts, and keep the home fires burning.

Know that even those who question the timing and justification for invading Iraq, and whether other countries are helping enough, we are united in supporting our brave troops in the Middle East. All Americans are united in deep gratitude for your courage and service. And all Americans are united in wishing you a speedy and safe return.

Your lives have been interrupted by the call of duty. You face separation from family and friends, and disruption in your civilian employment or education. Why? Because for all of you, duty comes first. Sacrifice in the name of our country and our American way of life comes first.

Today we also honor the families of the 81st Armored Brigade. Wives and husbands, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sweethearts and relatives and friends. With this deployment, you are also answering the call of duty. And we thank you, too, for the sacrifices you have made, and those that lie ahead.

These sacrifices by those who serve and their families are humbling, and make us very proud to be Americans.

My own father, Jimmy Locke, was a sergeant in World War II. He was among the many who went ashore on the beaches of Normandy. Growing up, I was taught that freedom sometimes comes at a high price. I am thankful for those lessons.

I grew up revering those who sacrificed as my father did, those who are members of our armed services. People like the men and women of the 81st Armored Brigade. Sacrifice, so that the rest of us can enjoy the safety, security, prosperity, and freedoms we too often take for granted.

The greatest consolation in these uncertain times lies in the inspiration and hope that soldiers like you give to the rest of us. The calm and uncomplaining way with which you and your families bear the rigors of service inspires us—inspires us to do all we can to support you, and the goal of freedom and democracy in every nation.

You are carrying the torch and lighting the way for freedom loving people around the world.

On behalf of the people of Washington state, thank you. Be proud—because we are proud of you. We can’t wait for your safe return home.

In your honor, I have proclaimed today, February 7, 2004, as Washington national Guard 81st Armor Brigade day in the state of Washington. I urge all residents of our state to to pay tribute to, and keep in their thoughts and prayers the men and women of the 81st Armor Brigade, as well as their families and loved ones.

God Bless you and your families, God keep you safe, and God Bless America.

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