Above: Gottheimer with the 102nd Cavalry Regiment, C Troop
WESTFIELD, NJ — Today, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) delivered the keynote remarks at the deployment ceremony for the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 102nd Cavalry Regiment, C Troop, which is being deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti.
“Today, 131 Hackettstown-area residents are being honored as they prepare to be deployed as members of the 102nd Cavalry Regiment in the U.S. Army,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “They’ve spent a year sacrificing weekends and vacation time away from their family, friends, and civilian jobs to prepare to serve our country overseas and protect American interests abroad. I couldn’t be more thankful for their service to our country and I am honored to address the parents, first responders, students, and small business owners at today’s deployment ceremony. With today’s deployment ceremony on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it is so important to thank the 102nd Cavalry and their families for all they do to defend and support the freedoms we as Americans hold so dear. I want them to know, on behalf of those I represent, and on behalf of a very grateful country, how much we appreciate you answering the call, going into harm’s way on the other side of the world to stand up for the greatest country in the world, against all evils — against terror, ISIS, al Shabaab, homegrown lone-wolf terrorism — to protect what we hold dear. ”
Video of the event can be found HERE.
Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
The 102nd represents the best of a citizen-force. Police officers, fire fighters, teachers, small business owners, college students – those from every walk of life. You’ve come together in common purpose: to defend the United States of America and everything we represent – our democracy, our freedoms, our strength, and the opportunities that, as inscribed on Lady Liberty, have welcomed generations of “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
I can think of no better moment to have this ceremony than on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a day of service and a day of a reflection, on our values and appreciation of what so many of our fellow citizens had to overcome to breathe that freedom. The Armed Forces were on the forefront, recognizing, before most, that our differences are our greatest strength. Nearly two decades before King marched on Washington, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 abolishing discrimination “on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin” in the Armed Forces.
As you know, the 102nd Cavalry Regiment has a long and rich heritage of protecting us at home and abroad. C troop, filled with the men and women of the Greatest Generation, helped lead the liberation of France during World War II. Sixty-five years later, the same troop stood strong, guarding our bridges and tunnels as the nation was picking itself back up after 9/11. The 102nd was deployed in 2008 during Operation Iraqi Freedom — and helped evacuate New Jersey families during Hurricane Sandy.
It is a tall order to live up to, but you always have. After all, you’re from Jersey; we can handle anything. Not only that, but who could stop you, after as hard as you’ve worked and trained over the last calendar year. In those months, you’ve escaped rolled over humvees, conducted counter-IED exercises, and worked as a team in live round sessions, and, as Captain Nagai tells me, you all passed with flying colors. In fact, I understand that 108 of the 131 of you are expert shooters. That’s quite a feat.
I know that your training and expertise will serve you well abroad. But it is critical that we all recognize the weight of the mission ahead of you.
The Global War on Terror and Operation Enduring Freedom are, at their roots, tied to 9/11, a day when our country lost nearly 3,000 souls, our state more than 700, and our country suffered an indelible wound that will never quite heal.
After that day, and our declaration of our War on Terror, we sent our forces into terror hotbeds around the globe, wherever they exist, to take down the likes of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and ISIS – all in an effort to prevent terror from ever again finding us here at home. As my Republican colleague and former Navy Seal, Dan Crenshaw, so aptly described his service, “We go there, so they don’t come here.”
We have shown our incredible might against al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan, against Iran, against Hamas and Hezbollah, against ISIS abroad and ISIS-inspired Lone Wolf Terror at home. And, as you are soon to see first-hand, we have stood up to terror against al-Shabaab in East Africa, where our country has a major interest in helping preserve our security and stability.
Terrorist organizations like al-Shabaab and ISIS-in-Somalia continue to exploit East African countries’ inability to secure their homelands. Terrorists there recruit from the most downtrodden with false promises, producing violence that only furthers the cycle of poverty.
It’s a roadmap that has been tested, and continues to be, in far too many countries, from Iran to Syria to Somalia – a nation that has suffered droughts, food insecurity, and civic unrest, creating an opening for al-Shabaab, an organization with long ties to al-Qaeda, to build its terrorist forces and wreak havoc.
What is clear is that while we are winning, killing and capturing terrorists around the world, the war against terror is not over. And that is why your mission – as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa – is so critical. You will help neutralize violent extremist organizations, provide security force assistance to partner nations, protect U.S. interests and enabling freedom of movement within East Africa, and respond to natural and man-made disasters when they arise.
The good news is that there is a great desire among East African nations to democratize, to engage global markets and protect their citizens. But they cannot do it alone. They need you.
When I think about 9/11, and the broader fight against terror, and all of those who have served and sacrificed for our country, I’m reminded of a passage in Scripture, from Isaiah, that says “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ and I said ‘Here I am, send me.’”
Today, like those before you, you are answering the call and saying to all of us, and to our country, “Here I am, send me.”
I want you to know, on behalf of those I represent, and on behalf of a very grateful country, how much we appreciate you answering the call, going into harm’s way on the other side of the world to stand up for the greatest country in the world, against all evils — against terror, ISIS, al Shabaab, homegrown lone-wolf terrorism — to protect what we hold dear.
In closing, I will always remember that moment after 9/11, when President Bush stood at a still-smoldering Ground Zero and, with bullhorn in hand, and spoke the words that were heard around the world. “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
I am grateful that they will soon hear from all of you.
As our Country did that September day and in the months ahead, we must always remember that we are Americans, first and foremost. You all represent the best of our country. That is what we must all be focused on in Washington – not political games or red shirts and blue shirts – but what is best for our country.
I believe that is my job in Congress – to make sure you have what you need to complete your mission and to always stay safe, and have what you need when you return. Please know that I will always get your back, whether that’s for increased pay or additional resources to fight terror, or better care at the VA when you return. That’s my job. To always stand by you.
We owe you and your families an unpayable debt of gratitude, and we must always do everything we can to support you.
Those are Jersey-blue values. Those are American values. And, like you, those values are a key part of the oath I took – to defend and protect America, especially to protect those who declared “send me.”
Thank you, again. May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless and watch over the United States of America.