THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT THANKING THE ARMED FORCES FOR THE RESCUE OF CAPTAIN SCOTT O'GRADY The Pentagon
1:42 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary. General Shalikashvili. To all the members of the Armed Forces here. The distinguished members of Congress. The members of the O'Grady and Scardapane families. To our distinguished guests.
I am tempted to say that we actually arranged this weather today so that Captain O'Grady would know for sure that he was not going to be left high and dry. (Laughter.)
We are all here to thank our men and women in uniform for the rescue of Captain Scott O'Grady. Their mission made all Americans proud, just as Captain O'Grady's courage has made all Americans proud. We know that the skill and professionalism of our Armed Forces and the intelligence that backs them up are unmatched. We know that the months, the weeks, the years in training someday, somewhere will always have to be put into effect and, last week, those of you who brought life to that training and saved one brave man's life said more about what we stand for as a country, what our values are and what our commitments are than any words the rest of us could ever utter; and we thank you for it. (Applause.)
Consider this: that an F-16 pilot in Captain O'Grady's "Triple Nickel" squadron picks up a faint radio signal and relays it to an AWACS plane. Within minutes, the AWACS operators positively identify Captain O'Grady and pinpoint his location. Then, just hours later, no less than 40 airplanes and helicopters are airborne, led by a combat search and rescue team from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit commanded by Colonel Martin Berndt. The AWACS aircraft -- a marvel of our technology -- guide two Super Stallion helicopters to within 50 yards of Captain O'Grady. In two minutes, the Marines secure the landing site, and whisked the Captain to safety under hostile conditions.
When I spoke to Captain O'Grady once he was on board the U.S. Kearsarge, he told me his rescuers were the real heroes. Well, it can't be done any better than they did it. They showed our nation and the world the best of our teamwork. When we finished our conversation, Captain O'Grady remarked, "Mr. President, I just want to say one thing: The United States is the greatest country in the world. God bless America." (Applause.)
The men and women of our Armed Forces also bless our America with your service and your skills. Because you do your job so well, our nation will always be "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." Now, let me say it was a very great personal honor for me to host Captain O'Grady and all the fine members of his family, beginning with his grandparents and going down to his brother and sister and some of his friends at the White House for lunch today.
I can tell you that he certifies he got a better meal today than he did in those six days in Bosnia. (Applause.) But he gave us something more precious than we can ever give him -- a reminder of what is very best about our country. And I'd like to now ask Captain O'Grady to come up here and say what's on his mind and heart to the people who gave him back his freedom.
Captain Scott O'Grady. (Applause.)
CAPTAIN O'GRADY: The first thing I want to do is thank God -- thank God for His love.
I have to tell you all, I just can not believe this response. It's overwhelming and it's still unreal in my mind that I'm getting this.
But if you'll allow me the honor to accept all this fanfare in the honor of those men and women who deserved it more and didn't get it, serving their country, not just in the United States, but also in NATO and the United Nations Peace Corps -- to those men and women who suffered a lot more than I went through; those who are POWs; those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, both in wartime and peacetime, for their countries. And if you could do that for me, then I'll accept all this. (Applause.)
And with that, the greatest gift that anybody could ever give me would be to, if you know anybody who have ever served their country, in NATO or the U.N., or the United States of America, or who is serving it right now, is to go up to them and thank them for what they're doing for trying to make this world a better place.
Thank you and God love you -- I love you. God bless America. Thanks. (Applause.)
END 1:48 P.M. EST