Thank you, Lee, for your kind words – and for all that you and your colleagues in the Justice Management Division have done to organize this important ceremony.
It is a pleasure to join with Lee – and with Deputy Attorney General Cole and Associate Attorney General Perrelli – in welcoming you all to the Justice Department’s second annual Veterans Appreciation Ceremony. And I would like to extend a special welcome to the all of the current and former military service members who I am so proud to count as my colleagues – and who we’ve gathered to honor today. Please stand that so we can give you all a round of applause.
I’d also like to thank the Air Force Band Ceremonial Brass Quintet – along with the outstanding Cardozo High School JROTC Color Guard, and our very own Lonnie Tague – for sharing their talents with us and helping us pay tribute to those who have served this country in uniform.
And, of course, it’s my privilege to welcome our keynote speaker – and my good friend – FBI Director [Bob] Mueller, whose commitment to service has led him from the Third Marine Division in Vietnam, to the halls of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and on to one of the most critical senior law enforcement positions in all of government. Director Mueller, it’s great to have you back at Main Justice, and I want to thank you for being with us.
Before I hand things over to our distinguished speaker, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the proud legacy of service and sacrifice that he – and so many Veterans throughout the Justice Department – have helped to establish over the years, and continue to build on each day.
This morning, we honor an extraordinary group of individuals – the 19,000 courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who – in components and offices all around the world – form the backbone of the Justice Department family.
You are agents, attorneys, investigators, and members of our support staff. You are managers, mentors, innovators, and invaluable contributors to the Department’s most vital missions. Especially in recent years – as we’ve been asked to do more with less, and to contend with growing demands and limited resources – you’ve helped to maintain the Department’s focus on our most important objectives. And you’ve shown us all what it means to put service before self.
On Friday, Americans across the country will pause to observe Veterans Day – and take time to reflect upon the tremendous sacrifices that generations of service members have made on our behalf.
Over the years, these brave men and women have come from every corner of our country and all walks of life – and have represented a variety of races, creeds, backgrounds. But they have been united by a shared commitment – and an uncommon willingness – to put their lives on the line to defend the United States against a range of global threats, and to preserve the freedoms that we all enjoy. In countless ways, these patriots have strengthened our nation. Though in fulfilling their sacred duties, far too often, they have paid the ultimate price.
Our nation owes each of these heroes – and every one of you – a debt of gratitude that we can never hope to repay, but must never forget to express. This morning – as we observe the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War – I’d especially like to recognize and thank the 50 Vietnam-era Veterans who are with us.
You entered the military during a difficult and tumultuous time in our nation’s history. Then you chose to continue your service as a civilian, by bringing your skills and talents to bear at the Justice Department. For half a century, your courage and commitment – as well as the extraordinary contributions that have been the hallmark of your careers – have made you role models for your colleagues, for your friends and family members, and for your fellow Americans.
Many of you have helped to lead the Department’s activities to protect the employment rights, voting rights, and financial security of veterans across the country. And today, on behalf of President Obama and my colleagues across the Administration, I’d like to thank you, once again, for your service. I also want to reaffirm the Department’s commitment to standing with you – not just on Veterans Day, but every day of the year – as we take this work to the next level.
As many of you know, in 2009, President Obama established the Veterans Employment Initiative to help men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces gain employment in the federal government. Here at the Department of Justice, we’ve not only made this program a priority – we’ve launched a Veterans Employment Office of our own, which – for nearly two years – has been helping to attract, and to advance, dedicated colleagues who have served their country in uniform.
Today, I’m encouraged to see these efforts continue to meet with success. And I’m grateful to work with so many distinguished Veterans – of Vietnam, of the Persian Gulf, of Afghanistan and Iraq, and of the many defining battles that have helped to ensure justice here at home and around the world.
Although I’m proud of what our current and former service members have helped to achieve, I also know this is no time to become complacent – or to take their contributions for granted. That’s why it’s such an honor to stand with the many Veterans who now work in this Department – and why it’s special privilege, at this time, to introduce a leader who embodies the finest traditions of military and public service.
Robert Mueller currently serves as the sixth Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – a post he began exactly one week before the September 11th attacks. In the decade since, he has led nothing less than a large-scale, historic transformation of the FBI – helping to adjust and adapt its capabilities, and to redefine it as an intelligence-driven, threat-focused agency – one that’s dedicated to, and incredibly effective at, protecting our national security and combating crime.
During his tenure at the FBI, he’s been a key advisor to two Presidents, a critical member of this country’s national security team – and an indispensible partner to me. But, before he became one of the top law enforcement officials in this country – before he served as Acting Deputy Attorney General, or as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, or as U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of California – when he was fresh out of college, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. In connection with his military service, he attended both Army Ranger and Jump Schools. And he went on to lead a rifle platoon of the Third Marine Division in Vietnam.
For his service, he received the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. I would say that he’s a proud former serviceman – but I know there’s no such thing as a former Marine. So I will simply say that Bob is a true patriot, a tireless advocate, and a decorated Veteran – whom we are honored to have with us today.
Please join me in welcoming my friend, Director Robert Mueller.