Radio Address to the Nation on Armed Forces Day

May 17, 1986

My fellow Americans:

We're broadcasting live today from Fort Myer, a military installation just outside Washington. And before me at this moment, looking tall and impressive, are members of the honor guard of the five branches of the military service: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. These proud units appear at special ceremonies and are always on hand to help me greet foreign heads of state at the White House. And believe me, the leaders of other nations have often commented on the snap, the polish, and the soldierly bearing of these troops. In fact, I sometimes think a few of our visitors are a little envious of ``The Gipper,'' as our uniformed sons and daughters pass by in review. Well, okay, in my case, our uniformed grandsons and granddaughters. [Laughter]

But today we're all on hand at Fort Myer to celebrate a very special date in America's official calendar: Armed Forces Day. Today we set aside a few moments to pay tribute to the millions of Americans serving their nation in the cause of freedom all over the globe. Many of them are listening to me now, and as Commander in Chief I want to remind each of you in uniform how grateful your country is to you. Let me assure you that the millions of Americans going about their usual Saturday schedule and listening now join me in saying to you, ``Thanks -- thanks for being there, for keeping our homes and children safe, for keeping America free and at peace.''

Now, I know you here with me and most members of the armed services listening at the moment aren't in your dress uniforms, and maybe -- and I'm sure it only happens every now and then -- your shoeshines aren't quite as bright as the ones I'm looking at here. But I know the sense of military professionalism, love of country, and commitment to freedom is just as strong. It's because of that patriotism and professionalism that you've left your homes and communities to become part of an extraordinary military tradition. Unlike so many other traditions, America's military history has been largely one not just of great battlefield victories but victories in the name of something beyond conquest or self-interest.

Here in America we've been fortunate to be the keeper and custodian of a dream -- a dream that began this nation, a dream that millions of people hope to share in someday. And every member of America's Armed Forces has a special part in keeping that dream alive. The dream, of course, is freedom, and truly those of you in uniform today are freedom's honor guard.

The new patriotism that's alive in our nation today is reflected in these young people joining our military services. They're better educated, better trained, and as highly motivated as any time in our history. These young Americans look to a future they know will be free as long as America remains strong and her people resolute. But this revitalization of our military was a long time coming, the result of a lengthy legislative battle here in Washington.

Time after time in the postwar era, the American people have made it clear that those who trifle with our national security and oppose adequate military budgets will be held responsible on election day. And it's this kind of support from the American people that got a consistently reluctant Congress to vote the appropriations necessary to rebuild America's defenses. But old habits die hard, and much of what we've achieved is now in jeopardy. As one Congressman described the inconsistency, ``We are marching down the mountain we have been marching up.''

You see, the House of Representatives recently passed a military budget that is wholly inadequate, a throwback to the seventies, a budget that is a breach of faith with our Armed Forces and our allies and would send exactly the wrong signal to the Soviets and their satellites. So, today I not only want to ask every American to join me in saluting our young Americans in uniform, I want to reiterate that the best way to ensure their lives are never placed in jeopardy is to send a message to Washington and to the world, a message that says the American people are committed to national defense and that we stand behind those who wear our country's uniform.

We owe a great debt to those on freedom's first line of defense -- men like Captain Lorence and Captain Ribas-Dominicci, Air Force pilots who recently lost their lives in the raid on Libyan terrorists. We honor them today and all the members of freedom's honor guard. And we say thank you to you, our Armed Forces, and pledge our support for adequate military expenditures, a strong defense, and the dream of world freedom and peace.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the dining facility at Fort Myer in Arlington, VA. Following his address, the President had lunch with members of the honor guards and then returned to the White House.