JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va., September 28, 2015 — In an armed forces full-honors retirement ceremony, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey closed out 41 years of service, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. succeeded him as the highest ranking U.S. military officer.
Dempsey swore in Dunford here today as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer.
President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter were among the dignitaries who attended today’s retirement and change of responsibility ceremony.
“We all owe this great country our very best and our fellow citizens our very best,” Dempsey said. “It was humbling to accept this job four years ago and it’s humbling to relinquish it today.”
Dunford said he was humbled for the opportunity to represent the men and women in uniform. “They are a true national treasure. My focus in the coming days will be to provide them with the leadership and the support that they deserve,” he said.
Dempsey One of ‘Finest Men’ Obama Knows
Obama praised Dempsey for his vision for the military, his moral fiber, and deep commitment to American strength and values
Dempsey served during a time of many challenges, the president said, and managed each one with “integrity and foresight and care.” America has reassured its global allies, ended the combat mission in Afghanistan, and forged new partnerships to fight terrorism, the president noted.
“We built a coalition that is combating ISIL in Iraq and Syria and have we bolstered our cyber defenses. We helped halt the spread of Ebola in West Africa,” Obama said. “None of this would have been possible without Marty’s guidance and leadership.”
Obama described Dempsey as “one of the finest men that I know.” He picked Dempsey to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and previously chief of staff of the Army, he said, because the general had the “steady hand” needed in the moment of transition.
“I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated your candor and your counsel, and I have seen you build that trust not just with me, but across our military with our troops and their families, with Congress and our allies abroad and with the American people,” Obama said.
“Over the last four years, Marty’s wisdom, his vision and his character have helped lead the greatest fighting force the world has ever known,” Obama said.
Every Decision Touches Lives of Troops
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that before Dempsey became chairman he was already a proven military leader who led the 1st Armored Division during “difficult days,” returned to reconstitute the Iraqi army, and had been chief of staff of the Army.
“Every decision the military leader makes, large or small, touches the lives of our troops. It touches the lives of countless families, it changes the nature of the world and the destiny of the country,” Carter said.
“For the men and women who operate during a time of rapid change and uncertainty, this is the constant weight and responsibility of leadership,” Carter said.
Thanks to the unwavering service and commitment of Obama, Dempsey and Dunford to the military, “our nation is nobler and stronger, and will be forever more,” Carter said.
All the speakers at the event lauded Dempsey and his wife Deanie for their unwavering commitment to the military, military families and their own family, which includes three children who have served in the Army and nine grandchildren.
Closing Out Career, Passing Responsibilities
Dempsey said it has been his privilege to serve the nation. The men and women who serve the nation are “most precious treasure,” he said.
“They and their families inspire us. Today, we entrust them to our new chairman,” he said.
“Our nation and its armed forced remain the world’s foremost symbols of strength, of hope, and of freedom,” Dempsey said. “The generation that is now blessed to serve will do its duty and will ensure that our nation remains strong.”
Dunford commended Dempsey for his service to the nation.
“We’re all indebted to General Marty Dempsey for his extraordinary leadership, commitment and service, and on a personal note, for many years he has been a great friend, mentor and role model,” Dunford said.
Make It Matter
Dempsey forever honors the 132 soldiers who lost their lives under his command in Iraq, Obama said, explaining how Dempsey has a box that contains each soldier’s picture and story.
“And on top of the box are three words: make it matter,” Obama said.
“Every morning, Marty places three of the cards in his pocket so that every moment as chairman, every meeting, every trip, every decision, every troop review, every moment of every day, some of those fallen heroes are with him,” the president said.
Dempsey, in closing his speech said, “To all who will continue to serve after, I ask only this in parting, make it matter.”
By Lisa Ferdinando