Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Navy League Patriot Awards
September 16, 2017
As Prepared for Delivery
Ladies and gentlemen, I'll try to keep my remarks brief. After all, it's said that most speakers need no introduction. What they do need is a conclusion.
This year’s Council Honorees are two very special American Patriots: General David A. Bramlett, United States Army, Retired, and Ms. Jennifer Sabas. These two individuals, through their lifelong commitment to country and community, exemplify qualities of true American Patriots.
General Bramlett retired after 34-plus years of service in the United States Army, to include Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command here in Hawaii. And he continues to serve our nation and this community today. Whether it’s being a leading voice in recognizing the World War II Nisei Veterans, a senior mentor to the Army, or serving as an adjunct professor with Hawaii Pacific University, General Bramlett is a true warrior, scholar and patriot.
We are also here to honor Ms. Jennifer Sabas, a servant leader who wears many hats. As Director of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute Foundation, Ms. Sabas preserves Senator Inouye’s legacy to inspire future generations through Foundation partnerships with the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Bishop Museum on the development of innovative educational programs. As a consultant to the Military Affairs Council of Hawaii, her early initiatives focused on the restructuring of the council by advocating its agenda to military leadership, the Pentagon, and Congress in support of military activities and installations in Hawaii.
Tonight, we honor General Bramlett and Ms. Sabas as true American Patriots for their selfless service to nation and community.
This moment gives us a precious opportunity to reflect – to reflect on what it means to be a patriot, to reflect on what it means to be a nation tested by war, and to reflect on both the costs and the blessings of liberty.
Patriotism is a term familiar to us all; however, it can come in many different shades. I asked my friends Merriam and Webster what they thought it meant, and they told me it’s "one who loves his or her country and supports its authorities and interests." Okay, I buy that.
To me, it’s also devotion to one’s country. Patriotism conjures up deep sentiments of national pride, a virtuous sense of belonging and community, and a profound appreciation for freedom. Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowing and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, and by their choice.
Ladies and gentlemen, America is the country she is because of her patriots, past and present. People 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. A life such as that lived by Senator Dan Inouye. His actions in World War II earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism. He went on to serve Hawaii and the U.S. as a Senator and a key voice for American democracy. Senator Inouye was an American patriot in the truest sense of the word, and he lived a life that mattered.
U.S. Navy Captain John Woolston, who was introduced earlier – survivor of the USS Indianapolis, stranded for days in the Philippine Sea without food or water in shark infested waters – is an American patriot.
But World War II holds no monopoly on heroism. Consider retired naval aviator, Vietnam veteran, and Vietnam prisoner of war, Captain Jim Hickerson.
And into the 21st Century, consider Hawaii’s native son Mark Takai – a National Guardsman and Congressman. As a principled leader and person of character, he served our nation faithfully in Congress and in uniform. He was a true Pacific warrior, leader, statesman, and patriot.
I believe these stories, and the stories of the two great patriots we honor tonight, will become part of the heritage of our state and nation, inspiring others to find within themselves the strength to overcome overwhelming adversity, to fight for freedom and answer our nation’s call.
Now, I’m no expert on the Good Book, and I prefer to leave the preaching to Chaplain Steve Jensen here, who gave tonight’s inspirational blessing. But I do know that in the book of Ezekiel, God was searching for a person who would build up a wall and stand in the gap to defend a new nation, a warrior who would represent the honor and integrity of the people.
Thankfully, our nation has always been blessed to have strong men and women with exceptional courage, patriots who are willing and able to stand in the gap and defend America whenever Lady Liberty is threatened.
And they’ve answered that clarion call to defend our nation time and time again, on every front and in every battle. From our war for independence more than 240 years ago, to World War I, to Pearl Harbor and World War II, to Korea and Vietnam, to 9/11 and our current fight in Afghanistan, to Iraq, to the ongoing battle against ISIS, and every war in between, America’s brave sons and daughters have willingly come forward to stand in the gap and engage our enemies, even to the ends of the Earth – and we are still at it today.
A free nation cannot survive without those who are willing to place service to country ahead of service to self.
Freedom requires constant vigilance by all patriots – whether they wear the uniform or not – to fight for liberty and justice for all.
So, ladies and gentlemen, we honor America’s patriots – both military and civilian – because they inspire us today. Patriots like each and every person in this room tonight.
May God bless each great patriot, past and present, who has served around the world, answering their nation’s call. May God bless patriotic organizations like the Navy League, and may God bless the United States of America, which has always been – and forever shall be – the land of free and the home of the brave. Thank you very much.