Remarks at McNair Barracks
Let me first say a word of appreciation to those who have spoken before; to General Yates for his moving statement of commitment and a shared experience you have had here in protecting freedom, and in your work since the end of the Cold War in Iraq and Turkey and Macedonia and elsewhere; General Maddox for his leadership and continuing commitment to our presence in Europe; and especially to my friend, Chancellor Kohl. For it is what has happened in the last few years since the Wall fell which has proved that your enduring sacrifice was worth it. We are marking the end of a half a century of sacrifice on freedom's frontier. But we are celebrating a new beginning.
Chancellor Kohl, I thank you for being America's great friend and for proving in the inordinate sacrifices made by the German people and the German government since the Wall came down that unification can be a reality; that Germany can be whole and one, and a full partnership in leading the world to a better tomorrow. America is in your debt, sir.
In 1945, at the dawn of the Cold War, President Truman came here to Berlin. From atop the American headquarters he raised high the Stars and Stripes, and stated then his hope that one day Berlin would be part of what he called a better world, a peaceful world, a world in which all the people will have an opportunity to enjoy the good things in life.
Well, today Berlin is free; Berlin is united; Berlin has taken its rightful place in that better world. The symbolic walk that the First Lady and I and Chancellor and Mrs. Kohl took through the Brandenburg Gate, and the symbolic ceremony held for the first time with an American President on the eastern side of that gate, gave full evidence to the success of those efforts.
And now, with the Cold War over, we gather to honor those Americans who helped to bring it to an end, who helped to unite Berlin, who helped to make it possible for us to walk through the Brandenburg Gate — the men and women of the Berlin Brigade. Few moments in the life of a nation are as proud as when we can thank our sons and daughters in uniform for a job well done. Today we share such a moment. We case your colors as you prepare to bid farewell to this place you have done so much to secure. And I say to all of you — the members of the Berlin Brigade — America solutes you; mission accomplished.
From Checkpoint Charlie to Doughboy City to Tempelhof Airport and beyond, more than 100,000 American men and women have served in Berlin. More than anyone, they showed the patience it took to win the Cold War. More than anyone, they knew the dangers of a world on edge. They would have been the first casualties in the world's final war, yet they never flinched.
They were people like Colonel Gail Halvorsen, who dropped tiny parachutes carrying candy to the children of Berlin during the 1948 airlift; and Sid Shacknow, a Holocaust survivor, who became an American citizen after the Second World War. Here in Berlin, he became better known as Brigadier General Shcknow, the Brigade commander; and Edward Demory, one of the heroes of Checkpoint Charlie who commanded a unit that, for 16 tense hours, looked straight into the guns of Soviet tanks in 1961; people like a brave pilot named Hans Pool, who stood sentry one day in 1964, when a young East Berliner dashed for freedom. East German guards fired, and the youth fell wounded. And that's when Private Pool jumped the Wall and carried him to freedom.
Few of them are here today, but some are. Many of them will not see their beloved Berlin again. But when their nation and the world called, all stood ready to take the first fall for freedom. I ask you now, all of us, to thank them with applause for their acts of courage over these decades.
Now we leave, but the friendship between Germany and America, and the thousands and thousands of personal friendships between Germans and Americans live on. And our commitment to the good and brave people of Berlin and Germany lives on. Together, we are building on our vision of a Europe united; pursuing a common dream of democracy, free market, security based on peace, not conquest. We stand ready to defend the interests of freedom against new threats, and I am committed to keeping some 100,000 troops in Europe to make sure that commitment is good.
Today our troops are strong. They have what they need to do the job; they deserve it and they must always have it. The lessons we have learned for 50 years tell us that we must never let the forces of tyranny rule again.
In the long struggle to free Berlin, no one ever knew for sure when the day of liberty would come — not when Harry Truman raised the flag in 1945, or when the first airlift planes landed in 1948, or when the hateful Wall went up in 1961. But in all those years, the defenders of Berlin never gave up. You stood your ground; you kept watch; you fortified an island of hope. Now we go forward to defend freedom and, strengthened by your devotion, we work for the day when we can say everywhere in the world what you made it possible for us to say here today in Berlin — mission accomplished.
Thank you and God bless you all.