United States Marine Corps OCS Graduation

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As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, Friday, August 10, 2012

Distinguished guests, parents, families, friends, and above all, Marines of Charlie Company, it is, for me, a very distinct honor and privilege for me to be here and to have the opportunity to participate in this special occasion as Secretary of Defense.

Let me first and foremost offer my sincere congratulations to all of you, all of the graduates. Congratulations, you made it! And I'm sure your families are all saying "Thank God you made it!"

Please join me in giving these graduates and the families a big round of applause.

I'd like to offer my deepest thanks to the parents, families, and friends here today. Your love and your support has made this day possible. As Secretary of Defense, I'm grateful for your support and the willingness of families to share your loved one with our military family. You are part of our larger family. And let me tell you, frankly, that we could not do the job of defending this country without you. And for that reason I deeply appreciate your loyalty, your support, and the love that you provide for the fighting member who's graduating today.

Let me also thank all of the service members and veterans who are here today. I know there's a great many of you here. What I'd like to do is for those of you who have served in uniform to please raise your hand and if we could give them all a round of applause.

Thank you all very much for your service and for your sacrifice.

I'd also like to thank those who had a part in the training of this class: Charlie Company Commander Major Ryan Orozco, the Platoon Commanders, the Sergeant Instructors, and the entire staff of OCS.

While members of this class may not have fully appreciated it while doing push-ups or marching on the parade field, you've given them lessons that they will call upon for years to come.

Most of all, let me thank this graduating class. Thank you for choosing to serve our country. Thank you for your willingness to step forward, for your willingness to protect this country and to put your lives on the line in order to defend your fellow Americans.

Our democracy exists today because of brave people like you who are willing to stand up and defend it. You have all committed to giving something back to this nation. At a critical time of war; a critical time when we continue to confront terrorism throughout the world; a critical time when security threats across the globe, whether from North Korea or Iran, or the turmoil we confront in the Middle East, or cyber attacks, or the threats we face from rising powers. All of those areas represent the kind of challenges that we have to confront on behalf of the United States of America. And all of you have set yourself apart from your fellow citizens in a profound and in an honorable way. You have stepped forward to serve in uniform, and as I said, you stepped forward with a willingness to put your lives on the line.

I was at a command change ceremony this morning for General Schwartz of the Air Force and it reminded me that we are very proud to have some of the best weapons and technology in the world. I've got great aircraft; I've got fighter planes; I've got bombers; I've got B-1's and B-2's. got tremendous aircraft carriers, I've got amphibs. I've got some of the very best technology in the world.

But I've got to tell you something, none of that is worth a damn without the men and women in uniform who are willing to serve this country.

You are the heart and soul of what keeps this country safe. I often tell people that as the son of Italian immigrants, who came to the United States like millions of others. My parents had little language ability, few skills, and no money in their pocket, but they believed deeply in what this country was all about. I used to ask them, "Why would you travel of all of that distance? …