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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 20, 1994
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                           The Rose Garden

2:47 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Perry, Admiral Owens, members of the Joint Chiefs; to General Shelton and Mrs. Shelton, members of the Shelton family; to the representatives of each of our military services who served in Haiti and their families; all the other distinguished guests here, welcome to the Rose Garden.

We gather today to honor General Shelton and members of our Armed Forces for their service to our nation in Operation Uphold Democracy. All those who have served and all those who still serve in Haiti have served with extraordinary skill, courage and dedication.

For three years the United States and other countries throughout the world tried everything short of force to remove Haiti's illegal military regime and to restore its democraticallyelected government. It wasn't until the regime's leaders knew our Armed Forces were on the way that they agreed to step down peacefully.

Think for a moment where we would be today had we not acted and had General Shelton and the other members of our Armed Forces not performed their mission so admirably. The military regime would still be in power in Haiti, terrorizing the people there. Tens of thousands of refugees would continue to pose a threat to our region's stability. The march of democracy in the Americas would have suffered a severe setback. And the commitments of the United States in the international community would have proved empty.

Instead, we kept our word. President Aristide, Haiti's freely elected leader, has returned to office. The parliament is functioning. A sense of security and hope has replaced the climate of fear. The private sector is beginning the job of getting back on its feet. The rebuilding process has begun. And clearly our region is more stable and secure.

At the Summit of the Americas last week when we had 34 democratically-elected leaders from our hemisphere, I think no one would dispute the fact that the emotional highlight of the weekend was President Aristide's speech in three languages, expressing his gratitude to those who supported freedom and democracy in Haiti.

General Shelton, your careful planning and your ability to adapt to a fast-changing situation were at the heart of our success in Haiti. The strong personal leadership, the steady hand, and the real determination that you, personally, conveyed to the military leaders of Haiti in the first days, from the first moment of your action there, were, I know, absolutely critical to the success of this operation and to its peacefulness.

First, we asked you to prepare an innovative, integrated invasion force, drawing on the special capabilities of each of our services. Then, when the regime agreed at the 11th hour to leave, you had to switch gears immediately, and to ready our troops for a soft entry into Haiti.

On the ground, you have done a magnificent job of laying a secure foundation for the future. This has allowed 800 international police monitors from all around the world to work with an interim police force that is gaining the respect of the Haitian people. As a result, we've been able to draw down our own forces from 20,000 to about 6,000 at Christmastime. This number will soon decrease further as we transfer our mission in Haiti to the United Nations.

Through your efforts, General, Haiti today is democratic and free and much more secure. The Haitian people themselves, of course, must meet the difficult challenges ahead. It will take time for rebuilding and progress, but now at least all Haitians have a chance to work for a better future for themselves and their children.

The handpainted signs we see in Haiti today say it all: Thank you, America. Today America says: Thank you, General. And thanks to the men and women of our military who served so well in Haiti.

In a few moments I will be honored to award General Shelton the Army Distinguished Service Medal. But first I want to recognize the exceptional concern the General has also shown for the men and women under his command. I know that their safety and their well-being were always his first priority. And for that our nation is also grateful to General Shelton.

General, you requested that enlisted members from all our military branches join you today to receive the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal on behalf of their respective services. The soldiers who stand before us are the finest of America's finest. Each also will be awarded an individual commendation for meritorious service in Haiti.

I'd like to recognize them now. From the Coast Guard, Radioman 1st Class, Charles Brown. From the Air Force, Staff Sergeant John McCormick. From the Navy, Senior Chief Operations Specialist Samuel Wood. From the Marine Corps, Sergeant Paul Panici. From the Army, Staff Sergeant Morris Jones. And from the Special Forces, Sergeant 1st Class Shannon Davis. Each of you has helped to prove once again that our military is the best prepared, the best equipped, the best trained, the most devoted and highly motivated military in the entire world. (Applause.)

It is now my privilege to present all of you and General Shelton with your awards. Let our history recall that you answered the call of duty, you did your job, you advanced America's mission. Freedom and democracy are better as a result. Haiti's long night of fear has given way to a new day of hope. (Applause.)

(The awards are presented.) (Applause.)

END2:55 P.M. EST