Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Navy Recruit Training Graduation
Great Lakes, IL
April 14, 2017
Distinguished guests, Master Chiefs and Sergeants Major, and especially the parents, families and loved ones of these men and women who will soon join the long blue line of heroes who have served our nation on the sea – in times of peace and war:
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Some people think boot camp is easy. Those people never went to boot camp. No one knows that better than all of you.
I’m deeply honored to participate in this most important ceremony. This is a special day for me. You see, in 1938, nearly eight decades ago, with America on the brink of war, my father passed through this very crucible. He went on to serve in World War II and in Korea, and to retire in 1958 as a Chief Petty Officer. He never forgot what he learned in Recruit Training; he never forgot his time in the Navy, and neither will you.
America is the country she is because of her heroes, past and present. Women and men who put the nation’s interest above self-interest, who put patriotism above profit, and who put love of country above love of self.
Now, more than ever, America needs men and women who are willing to forego wearing a business suit, forego strolling down Easy Street, and forego living the good life. To wear instead the cloth of the nation, to travel instead along an uncertain road fraught with peril, to live instead a life on the ragged edge of danger. To live lives that matter on a fundamental level.
As America straddles the fault lines between the rule of law which protects the individual, and the rule of force which crushes the different, we rely more and more on our strong women and men in uniform.
But all of us need a little help from our loved ones. So I want to speak for a moment to the families and friends of these soon-to-be Sailors here today. All of you are the quiet patriots who form the bedrock – the soul, if you will – of America. Just as each of us reaps the benefits of living in freedom, each of us has a stake in protecting those freedoms. We all have a stake in democracy.
When our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters husbands and wives, and our dear friends, serve our nation, we contribute in meaningful, important ways. We contribute our fears, our resources, our hopes for a better tomorrow.
Those of us in uniform never forget that it is you whom we serve.
And now, to the Navy’s newest warriors – a call to action. Your adventure will present you with opportunities on many levels.
On a personal level, you have the opportunity to live the old Navy slogan and ‘see the world.’ You will make life-long friends, develop incredible skills, and explore the depths of your courage.
On a broader level – you may not believe me, but it’s true – you will have the opportunity to change the world.
Your adventure has just begun. And I believe that your futures are bright.
You’ve waited 10 weeks to get to this point, so I won’t stand in the way of your well-deserved liberty any longer.
So, let me close with an observation. George Orwell once wrote that people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough people stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
Ladies and gentlemen, since 9/11, we’ve been a nation at war – and America can sleep peaceably tonight because these newest Sailors will soon join the men and women of our nation's fighting force who stand ready to do violence on her behalf.
May God bless these warriors who choose to wear the cloth of the nation. May God bless the United States Navy. And may God bless the beacon of freedom we call America. Thank you very much.