PEARL HARBOR NAVAL STATION, Honolulu -- U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gordon England visited Marines and Sailors aboard the USS PELELIU Feb. 27, only a few hours after the ship pulled into port in Hawaii for its final liberty visit of WestPac 03-2.
As a steady rain poured down outside the ship’s cavernous hangar bay, England addressed a group of Sailors and Marines, saying that in his lifetime, the United States of America had faced three major challenges.
“I call them ‘the three isms’,” said England. “The first was fascism in World War II, and the second was Communism, which was a 40-year struggle for this country. The third is terrorism, and I believe this one is more serious.”
England said if the country had not prevailed in the first two, “this would be a different world today.” He also noted that the generation of Americans that fought World War II, commonly referred to as “The Greatest Generation,” were men and women who did their job defending America and didn’t think of themselves as living in historic times.
“I think we’re in historic times now, we just may not know it,” said England. “We will only succeed if our military succeeds, and you are our most valuable resource. It’s not technology or infrastructure or materials, it’s the outstanding men and women who wear the cloth of our country.”
Lance Cpl. Brian Shouse, a Javelin gunner with Weapons Co., Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th MEU(SOC), said having the No. 1 leader in the Navy come out and address the ship was a motivating experience.
“It was awesome that he’d take the time out of his schedule to come out here and thank us on behalf of the American people,” said Shouse, 23. “I appreciated it.”
Shortly before addressing the formation, Secretary England joined about 75 Marines and Sailors for lunch on the PELELIU’s messdecks. Having lunch with the SECNAV had fringe benefits, noted 13th MEU (SOC) combat correspondent Sgt. Mark Ledesma.
“If the food’s going to be this good, we should have the secretary over more often,” said Ledesma.
Before leaving, England delivered the most important and uplifting part of his message.
“Thanks for your service. That’s what I came out to say. Have great liberty, and have a great trip back to San Diego.”