WASHINGTON—Today, in an award ceremony at The Pentagon, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis honored House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. The award, which is the highest award given to civilians by the Department, recognizes Speaker Ryan’s commitment to the men and women who serve in the United States Military.
His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. This is truly a great and unexpected honor.
Permit me, Mr. Secretary, to express what a privilege it has been to work alongside you for the last two years.
I certainly share in the American people’s admiration for your service to our country.
As fortunate as I feel at this moment, I am simply a temporary steward of a solemn obligation.
The role that America plays in the world is so vital and so indispensable.
Nothing and no one—especially politics—should get in the way of making sure our servicemembers have what they need to sustain this great cause.
I am gratified that my colleagues and I could do our small part to fulfill this duty on behalf of the American people.
I want to especially thank Chairman Mac Thornberry and the members of our Armed Services Committee.
Without their vigilance, we would not have been able to achieve this breakthrough.
We see the two-year budget agreement as a first step in rebuilding our military. Now this work must continue, and I am confident it will.
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit our servicemembers in Afghanistan. It was the one thing I really wanted to do before leaving office.
No matter how many times I have done this, in no matter how many theatres, it is no less rewarding.
And it is personal, too.
Like any civilian, I treasure the servicemembers I have crossed paths with in my life.
One of the buddies I lived with in college is a Navy SEAL. My hunting buddy is a Green Beret. My close college friend is an Army engineer. And my childhood friend is the commanding general of the 101st Airborne.
There are many others, especially those I have had the privilege to represent who hail from Southern Wisconsin.
In faith, from the district I serve, nearly two dozen have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But what I see in these patriots who have served since 9/11 is our next great generation.
You know, here at home, we see all these little tears in our social fabric, all these threads being pulled at. The biggest fights over the smallest things.
But over there, in the middle of the desert, these men and women—many on multiple deployments—collaborate in a common pursuit under constant strain.
And all they want to talk about is the difference they are making, the good that they are doing.
Their bonds of trust with one another—it is all second nature to them.
For me, it was just this infusion of hope and perspective, this reaffirmation of humanity.
We are all heirs to a bigger story, a larger cause—a miracle, really.
And we can all do our small part to preserve and protect that…and to look out for one another.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for this great honor.
Thank you to all who serve, and to your families.
And God bless our great country.