By The Honorable Gale Norton
Secretary of the Interior
Support Our Troops Rally—South Interior
The winds of war are blowing through Washington and the
Nation. There are American and British casualties
and there are those who are missing in action in
The Interior family comes together in this place to show its support for our troops and to rally others to that cause. In many cases they literally are our troops—men and women who have been called to active duty from Department offices and parks, from refuges and public lands across this country. The number is approaching 100 and climbing.
They include men like Colonel Roger Duff, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Special Forces. Colonel Duff is a finance officer with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region. He joins us today with his wife-- Linda Martin.
Colonel Duff recently described his transition from Reclamation finance officer to Green Beret.
He said, “This requires a reservist to make a total transformation from a peacetime set of operational conditions to a warrior mindset.”
But Col. Duff said something even more telling when he explained, “The threat of losing one’s life is real. Yet, for the most part, members of the service are more concerned about their families’ welfare.”
Alongside Col. Duff and his wife are a few family members of employees from this area, whose loved ones are already deployed. We are here to show support for these families and others within our Interior family.
One of the things I can announce today is that the Department of the Interior will waive the employee share of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program premiums for Department employees called to active duty. That way, health benefits for the family can continue, with the federal government covering the full cost.
It is an important way for us to insure the care of the employee’s loved ones who are left behind—and to allay some of their concern.
When the war began in mid-March, I began to hear from a number of different Interior employees that they wanted to do something to support our troops. This is the government—so of course we formed a Committee.
But in less than 24 hours, the Committee had 35 suggestions
on ways to show our support. Within this
outpouring of supportive suggestions was an idea to adopt a unit fighting in
I am pleased to tell you today that the Committee has
recommended the Department of Interior adopt the Screaming Eagles of the 101st
Airborne Division based in
One of our jobs at Interior, within the Fish and Wildlife Service, is to protect and support threatened eagles. So the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne seemed like a natural choice.
The Committee also recommended we adopt the 10th
Mountain Division based in
They have been especially active in
Today’s event is only the beginning of Interior’s efforts to
support our troops. The
Finally, we wanted to have a visual message of our support. Many of you hold flags and wear buttons for that reason.
Today we will unfurl a banner on this
As commuters drive past on
As President Bush told the forces now in the
We are proud of our armed forces and their skill and
bravery. Even more than that we are
proud of the honorable and decent spirit they have shown to prisoners of war
and the civilian population in
We honor that spirit today as we unveil these banners.