I am honored to be a recipient of this most prestigious award and particularly appreciate the sentiment this award recognizes. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
When I made the decision to speak out publicly against the policy in Iraq, I said my biggest regret was that I did not speak out sooner. While the Administration continued to pitch progress and victory, logic dictated that progress was not forthcoming and that victory was but an illusion.
When I spoke out against the war policies of this Administration I did so predominantly with two things in mind: the lives of our brave men and women in uniform and the future of our great military.
My entire 32 year career has been devoted to looking after our service members and their families; making sure they got the best health benefits; making sure that those benefits would not be compromised; improving their living conditions; providing the finest in life-saving personnel equipment; and lastly, ensuring that they had the optimal weapons available to them in order to guarantee our military supremacy and thus secure the future of our great democracy.
I did not fully fathom that my statements would cause the fury that they did, nor that I would receive such an outpouring of gratitude from a nation who was starving for a spokesman. The thousands of tearful calls and heartfelt personal letters that poured into my office for weeks afterward were overwhelming and unprecedented in my career. To me, it was undeniable evidence that for too long our citizenry had been cowed by fear and manipulation. Even the voice of pragmatic dissent had been stifled.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
Today, my words of November 17, 2005, and the many that followed, reflect not only my own gut consciousness but that of many in our military and the majority of this country. I am proud to be the messenger of those who at one time had no voice.
When I called for a re-deployment of our troops, I did so with the recognition that they had won the military victory. My recommendation that we redeploy outside of Iraq acclaimed that victory.
I spoke out to honor the valiant men and women who are fighting this war. I humbly accept this Profile in Courage Award, not for myself, but for our war fighters who have sacrificed their lives, for the families’ members who are painfully living on and for our wounded warriors who have fought with unrestrained grit and true valor. It is their profiles and their courage that should be celebrated here today. They are the real heroes.
to watch Acceptance Speech by Congressman John Murtha.