Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Lone Sailor Dedication Dinner
Plaza Club, Honolulu, HI
October 12, 2017
[Introduced by Rear Adm. (ret.) Frank Thorp]
Thanks for that kind introduction, Frank. Your efforts – first as a Navy Public Affairs Officer, and then as CHINFO, and now as the President of the Navy Memorial – to honor and recognize the women and men of America’s sea services is really significant work.
Folks, it's an honor, and very cool I might add, to stand here in this company of heroes – veterans, active duty, and civilian leaders who support our Navy – patriots all. Thanks so much to the United States Navy Memorial for bringing us together. But before getting started, let me acknowledge:
- Carol Pottenger, Frank Glassner and all the Navy Memorial Board of Directors, past and present – including Dr. Jack and Dr. Jennifer London, who I had the pleasure of seeing this morning at PACOM. Thanks so much for your important work to not only preserve our Navy heritage, but to also establish new traditions like the Lone Sailor.
- The Navy Region Hawaii team led by Rear Admiral Brian Fort – thanks for working relentlessly to help make this Lone Sailor dedication at Pearl Harbor a reality. It's been a long road, but we're finally here.
- Superintendent Jacqueline Ashwell of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument – thank you and your team for working with our Navy to honor and preserve our shared history.
- To our industry partners and local business leaders, our strength as a nation depends on the synergy between the brave men and women who volunteer to defend our country, and patriots like you who support us.
- State and city leaders, fellow flag and general officers, distinguished guests.
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I'll try to keep this short. After all, it's said that most speakers need no introduction. What they do need is a conclusion.
So let me begin my formal remarks with a story – not a sea story, but a tale that has the added benefit of actually being true.
A few months ago, my PAO and I were on business in New York City. I recall that night vividly – dressed in choker whites, onboard USS Intrepid, giving a speech about the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea in front of President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Turnbull. Pretty heady stuff.
Later that evening on the ride back to the hotel, I looked back at Darryn and said, “Well, it doesn’t get better’n this.” When we got to the hotel in our tricked-out black SUV, I noticed a woman staring at me. I thought she might be drawn by my dress uniform and Naval aviation swagger.
Then she turned to her friend and said, “Is that our Uber driver?”
That story confirms my belief that Sailors belong in flight suits or Lone Sailor Navy peacoats! None of this fancy garb like we’re all wearing tonight!
Of course, being dressed up means this is a special night, as we gather here on the eve of our Navy’s 242nd birthday to honor our rich history and heritage by unveiling Hawaii’s very own Lone Sailor statue at Pearl Harbor.
Standing seven and a half feet tall, the Lone Sailor has a sea bag by his side – representing the fact that Sailors are global citizens, always ready, anytime, anywhere, to protect America’s interests.
The Lone Sailor embodies all Sailors – men and women, past, present, and future. This statue is a reflection of the pivotal role Navy Sailors have played in our nation’s history. This image is the personification of our Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment – values that have been the basis of America’s maritime strength even before we were a country, values that have shaped American security and prosperity across two and a half centuries.
This iconic symbol was created by the founders of the Navy Memorial and Mr. Stanley Bleifeld, who served in the Navy during World War II. Their goal was to create a Sailor that everyone could relate to – a Sailor molded by the seafarer's spirit, informed by challenge, and fashioned by adventure. A Sailor whose service would be remembered with awe and whose sea stories would transcend time. A brave Sailor who served so that our country could remain the land of the free.
As the 15th such statue located around our great country, Hawaii’s Lone Sailor has a kinship legacy with the others, and a nearby plaque recounts the exceptional tale. Quote: “He’s about 25 years old, a senior second class petty officer who is fast becoming a seagoing veteran. He has done it all — fired weapons in war, provided humanitarian assistance in far-away lands, been attacked by the enemy and defended our freedom. He has made liberty calls in great cities and tiny villages where he was a tourist, ambassador, adventurer, friend, missionary to those less fortunate and representative of our way of life. His shipmates remember him with pride and look up to him with respect.” Unquote.
Overlooking the revered waters of Pearl Harbor, this Lone Sailor will serve as a powerful reminder of our Navy’s heritage in the Pacific. It honors all women and men who’ve donned the cloth of our nation and put their lives at risk to protect freedom, democracy, and our very way of life.
This Lone Sailor’s expression of quiet determination will gaze reverently across Pearl Harbor and stand watch over the Arizona Memorial. This hallowed place of extraordinary significance has a special meaning to every American. Almost 76 years ago, this battleship became the eternal resting place of more than 1,100 Sailors and Marines – guardian angels of our nation who perished in a tragedy that catapulted our country into four long years of war.
In remembering the gallant World War II Sailors who gave their last full measure of devotion for America – at Pearl Harbor, at Coral Sea, at Midway, at Guadalcanal, at Normandy, at Leyte Gulf and Okinawa, and aboard the USS Indianapolis in the crucial waning days of the conflict – we feel a deep sense of sorrow.
Yet, we are also inspired by their gift to the world that is perpetual and enduring: the gift of freedom itself.
Indeed, the United States has always been blessed with strong men and women of exceptional courage and character – patriots who are willing to step forward to do whatever it takes to defend America whenever Lady Liberty is in jeopardy.
Thankfully, Navy Sailors have answered that clarion call to defend our nation time and time again, on every front and in every battle. From our War for Independence and the War of 1812, to World War I and World War II, to Korea and Vietnam, to 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, to the ongoing battle against ISIS, America’s brave sons and daughters have stood the watch in an unbroken chain, from generation to generation.
And without any doubt whatsoever, you can be proud of today’s generation of Sailors, who continue to stand a global watch and volunteer to go into harm’s way – including those 17 Sailors who died in twin tragedies aboard USS FITZGERALD and USS JOHN S. MCCAIN earlier this year. We mourn this loss as one Navy family, as our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of these 17 sons of America – the latest in the long blue line of guardian angels of our nation.
Our Navy has had many hard days throughout our history. And as American Sailors have done for 242 years, we persevere. It's what we do – well, that and win. It’s what our CNO calls toughness – another core Navy trait. And we’re lucky to have a tough CNO like John Richardson, who is the right Sailor at the right time to lead us during these dangerous days.
So the statue that we dedicate on this Navy birthday stands proudly, resolutely, demonstrating that America’s Sailors remain resilient and poised to win our nation’s battles. It’s what we’ve always done. It’s what we’ll do today. And it’s what we’ll do tomorrow.
And while we call this statue the Lone Sailor, it’s important to remember that – as a warrior fraternity of seagoing sisters and brothers – we all stand the watch together; we fight together; we grieve together; we persevere together; and we win together.
The steely gaze of the Lone Sailor tells friend and foe alike that our spirit will never be broken.
Why am I so sure? It’s because Navy Sailors are a breed apart. They didn’t graduate from high school or college and then choose to wear a business suit and live on Easy Street. Instead, they chose to wear the cloth of the nation and sail a sea fraught with peril. They chose to put patriotism above profit, to put their nation’s interest above self-interest, to put love of country above love of self. They chose to join the United States Navy… and for America, that has made all the difference.
By definition, being part of the Navy means you’ll be constantly challenged. President Ronald Reagan once said, “When life gets tough and the crisis is undeniably at hand… we will find nothing inside ourselves that we have not already put there.”
Think about that. The character inside each and every one of our Sailors isn’t just transferred into the fabric of our being the moment it’s needed. Technology can’t e-mail it in to the hard drives of our spirits or our souls and then upload it as needed. Character is woven in us over a life-long process that begins in our homes, continues through boot camp, the Naval Academy or other commissioning programs, and matures through our interactions and experiences in the Fleet.
Our Sailors come from all across America, representing the diversity and character of our great nation – and our Navy is stronger for it. They’re leaders and volunteers, inside and outside of the Navy. They’re role models for all of our citizens. They want to achieve and they want to win. Their fighting spirit is the backbone of our great nation. They exemplify the highest standards of service, at home and abroad, at sea and ashore, in combat and in times of peace.
Today, our United States Navy is second to none – we have the most advanced warships, submarines and aircraft in the world. But the best equipment means little if you don’t have the hard-working, highly trained and dedicated Sailors to bring those platforms to life. Our nation’s brave men and women – the intrepid souls who have chosen the Sailor’s path – are the cherished lifeblood that fuels the heart of the greatest nation on Earth.
Folks, since the Major League playoffs have just started, I'm reminded of a baseball team that was getting pounded in the first inning. The manager walked out of the dugout, headed directly to the mound, and took the ball from the pitcher.
The pitcher protested, 'Coach, it's the first inning! I'm not tired.'
The manager with a practiced eye, said, 'Yeah son, I know. But the outfielders sure are.'
So for all you outfielders out there, let me close with this thought.
Today, in 2017, we live in a world where we must learn, think, and fight Jointly – and rightfully so. But make no mistake about it, today is a Navy day, where the birthday of our great Sea Service provides us the opportunity to reflect and celebrate. And I can’t think of a better birthday present to honor our Navy in Hawaii than the iconic Lone Sailor statue.
So as we reflect, let us go back to our roots and take special note of what lies at the very heart of every Sailor: Honor to conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner; Courage to meet the challenging demands of our profession; and Commitment to the highest degree of moral character, technical excellence, and competence to defend our nation as America’s ultimate “away team.”
Sailors hold the vital key to our success as a Navy. How fitting, then, that we dedicate this statue on our Navy’s 242nd birthday in honor of all Sailors – past, present, and future.
And as I think of this statue, we must never forget that no Sailor stands the watch alone. For every Sailor is part of a team, and always – always – our Sailors have the support of the very nation that sends them into harm’s way.
Ladies and gentlemen, there's a passage from Saul Bellow that says “Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.”
Well, no one who ever served in the United States Navy should worry about insignificance.
Standing here tonight, I can honestly say that I’ve never been prouder to wear the uniform of the United States Navy. From all sides of the kill chain, I expect our Navy to be more relevant than ever.
For our Navy’s strength comes from those who have gone before. This is our heritage.
Our Navy’s strength comes from those who serve now. No one should doubt that today’s warriors are ready to fight tonight and win. This is our reality.
And our Navy’s strength comes from our sons and daughters – as the legacy forged by those in the Navy today will be passed to our children, and our children’s children – an unbroken chain who stand the watch to continue the fight against tyranny and injustice. This is our future.
The Lone Sailor represents our heritage, our reality and our future. So to every Sailor who found the courage to follow the Warrior’s Way, to defend America at the tip of the spear in times of peace and war, I salute you. I’m honored to be your wingman, your battle buddy, and your shipmate.
May God bless every Sailor, past and present, who has served around the globe, around the clock, to answer our nation’s call. May God bless our families, loved ones and patriots like those in this room tonight who provide us the critical support to conduct our missions. And may God bless this land of liberty we call the United States of America. Thank you very much.