Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with Army Spc.Colin Laird Pearcy after Pearcy was presented the Purple Heart Medal at Landsthul Regional Medical Center, Germany, July 21, 2007. Landstuhl is the largest American hospital outside the United States. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace returns a salute from Army Staff Sgt. Ellis Majetich at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 29. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace and his wife Lynne are introduced during an evening parade hosted by Pace at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force. (Re leased) (Released to Public)
At 0001, October 1, 2007, the tenure of General Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came to an end.
General Pace was the first Marine to become a Vice Chairman and later the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served this country for over 40 years. Because of rank politics, the country has told him he is no longer needed. Unlike most of us, he has dealt with this in the most remarkable way. He was offered a chance to quietly retire, yet he stayed on. “I said I could not do it for one very fundamental reason, and that is that ‘Pfc. Pace’ in Baghdad should not think ever that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield,” Pace said. Out of his sense of leadership, he could not even consider the idea, Pace said.
General Pace was a graduate of the Naval Academy in 1967. His first assignment was as a 2nd Lieutenant with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 2nd Platoon. His first assignment was to the Republic of Vietnam, where he joined the 2/5 just in time for the Tet Offensive in February 1968. He says he remembers the names of every Marine who was killed following 2nd Lt Peter Pace's orders. He said that those Marines gave their lives so Americans can live the way they please. "I have always felt a sense of responsibility to repay what they gave our country." On September 4, in Fallujah, Iraq, Peter Pace visited the Marines of G 2/5, closing the circle of his service. General Pace will probably be the last Chairman who served in Vietnam.
"This is selfish of me to be here. I wanted you all to be the last unit I was with. I started out 40 years ago, and my first unit in combat was Golf 2/5, 2nd Platoon, and I wanted it to be my last."
"I know, come 1 October, ... that for a little over 40 years I tried to do my best to take care of the guys and gals I've been responsible for," he said. "I also know that come 2 October, I will still owe the organization more than I can ever repay."
"Now I am going home," he said referring to his retirement in October. "I am not a volunteer to go home, nor am I dragging my feet. I am sitting here saying the same thing I have said for 40 years: I love this nation, I love each and every one of you who wear the uniform, I would serve until I die if they would let me.
"But I am also very comfortable that I have fulfilled the mission that I set for myself 40 years ago. And those great young Marines who will be forever young with their names on the Vietnam Wall and those who died with us in Somalia and those who died in this conflict, I hope I have served the way I meant to serve, and that is to remember the impact on 'Pfc. Pace' and not care about whether General Pace gets promoted."
"In my current position, I have to make damn sure that their sacrifice has been for a mission that is worthwhile and a mission that will be sustained," he said.
During his service, General Pace has always reached out to the families of the troops. He says that they have serve our country as well as any one in uniform, and always expresses his gratitude for their service.
He also visits the wounded and says visiting them is a humbling experience. "You feel a mixture of humility, because the troops invariably say to you that all they want to do is get back to their units," he said. "No matter how badly wounded they are, what they are thinking about is the guys and gals they left on the battlefield."
At a recent visit with the troops and young sergeant came up to General Pace and said, "'Sir, thanks for your service. We'll take it from here.' My sadness (about leaving) is all about a selfish desire to continue to wear the uniform and serve the nation," he said. "My happiness, as that great sergeant said, is that you all will take it from here."
I will miss General Pace. I trusted his love for our country, his love for the troops he lead, for the integrety he brought to the discussion, for his warmth and caring. We are all richer that he served this country so honorably. Thank you, General Pace - we will never be able to repay you for all you have done for us.