USS John C. Stennis, At Sea (NNS) -- The United States Central Command's commander in chief made a brief Christmas visit to USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) recently to wish happy holidays to the Sailors and Marines aboard, and to express gratitude for their efforts supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Standing in front of the 12-by-18-foot American flag found in the rubble of the World Trade Center, Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks talked to Sailors and Marines about the importance of their mission and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for their efforts.
"These colors don't run. If your kids and my grandbabies are going to have the chance to enjoy life and enjoy America, then we're going to step up to it. And so from Americans, everywhere, hundreds of millions of them, thanks for what you do," Franks said.
"I'm not sure that you know how special you are. I'm not sure that it won't be a while before you get home. Whether you're Navy, whether you're Marines, whether you're a SEAL, whether you're flying these jets, whether you're maintaining them, whether you're green, whether you're red, brown, the work that you do on this magnificent war machine is just absolutely out of sight," Franks added.
Franks said there was no place he'd rather be. "And you are over here, one half a world away from the things that are most dear and most important to you: Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, children, friends ... and so for all them and for all of my grandbabies, thanks a lot for doing what you're doing ... for all of you who have made it possible to fill the Taliban's Christmas stocking, thanks a lot. For all of you who have made it possible for millions of people in Afghanistan who have not known peace in decades, have made it possible for them to at least make a beginning, thanks," Franks said.
Franks said after meeting with the President a few days ago, he was instructed to tell the troops "thanks a lot" and to give them a hug. So, Franks climbed down from the stage and made his way through the crowd of Sailors and Marines, personally thanking them for their hard work and dedication.
The crew said Frank's visit definitely made an impact, and they appreciated the visit.
"It was nice that he took time out to be here," said Cpl. Alexander Martinez. "He's a very busy man, but he came all the way out here to come see us. It shows that he cares about us. It definitely makes a difference."
Martinez continued, "For somebody big to come out and say, 'Hey, you're doing a good job,' definitely improves morale. It's really nice to hear that what we're doing matters."
"Give us the supplies, and we'll finish the job," Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Chris Faddis said, quoting Winston Churchill. "And I don't see any difference here, sir. We'll just keep on keeping on. That's all we can do. People back home are counting on us."
Faddis added, "I find it an honor to be supporting this effort and to have the World Trade Center flag here, like a symbol that America can't be kept down. I'm kind of a history buff, and to be a part of this new history, it means a lot."
"You are all really special. There's no place in my life I'd rather be," said Franks.
"On September 11, the United States of America was attacked in a ruthless way and every one of you grew up just like I did ... but one thing that was absolutely true when I was a kid growing up is that if you are an American, you can do anything that you were man or woman enough to want to do. That's the hallmark. That's what America is all about," Franks noted.
For more information about USS John C. Stennis, go to http://www.stennis.navy.mil.