--Excerpted from the Change of Command/ Retirement Speech--
Capt. Dean Knuth, USNR, 9/19/98
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my country and to serve with such an outstanding group of people. Why is it that the military service has been so different than work in the civilian world? I think that it has to do with the core values of our military servicemen and women.
Recently, I was reading the book "In His Own Words", which was composed of the writings and speeches of George Washington from his teenage years to his death. I was struck by how his entire life was led by God. His moral judgment was on a high spiritual level and in almost everything that he wrote; he referred to his devotion to God, which he usually called "The Universal Ruler".
I would like to read to you one quote from George Washington:
"A GOOD MORAL CHARACTER IS THE FIRST ESSENTIAL IN A MAN. IT IS THEREFORE HIGHLY IMPORTANT, TO ENDEAVER NOT ONLY TO BE LEARNED, BUT VIRTUOUS."
This military theme follows up to a letter to the
Editor in the Washington Post from General Krulak, former Commandant of the U S Marine Corps. He wrote the following:
"We are not born with character. It is developed by the experiences and decisions that guide our lives. Each individual creates, develops and nurtures his or her own character. Being a man or woman of character is not an easy task. It requires tough decisions, many of which put you at odds with the more commonly accepted social mores of the times. Making the right ethical choices must become a habit. Decisions cannot be situational, based on others' actions or dependent upon who is watching. Lack of integrity or honor will sooner or later manifest itself in other forms.
People who have the courage to face up to the ethical challenges in their daily lives, to remain faithful to sacred oaths, have a reservoir of strength from which to draw upon in times of great stress."
Another story that recently was on the front page of the Washington Times stated that thirty-six per cent of enlisted people were being discharged prematurely in their first term enlistments, mostly due to performance infractions and our zero tolerance for drug use. As you know, these young men and women have come from our society and are a fair cross section of the good and the bad in our country. It also shows that the U S Military continues to maintain high standards . In the article, Loren Thompson, a defense analyst explained: "The sense of discipline and the sense of values has tended to erode among the nation's youth. It doesn't mean that they don't have values, but it means that a larger number of them have values that are pretty largely removed from what tradition has considered our values."
The military's core values have been resolute over the years. In 1992 they were formalized to be distilled into three words: HONOR, COURAGE and TRADITION. In 1990, they were issued as: INTEGRITY, PROFESSIONALISM and TRADITION. These are all words extoling personal excellence. Calling upon the military service to serve their country with noble values that often are not to be found in the business world.
It has been said, " If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. I think that it was Yogi Berra who put it another way: "If you find a fork in the road-take it."
Society is producing young people with no values or values have not been taught to them and without values, there cannot be sustainment and faith.
I encourage all of you that are still serving your country to have moral courage and to focus on core values. For the leadership in the ranks, a good leader is morally courageous. Don't feel helpless by the deluge of society's immorality. Maintain your dignity, for human dignity is sacred. Maintain your faith.
I could not be more proud of those of you that I have served with. Those of you that are in the Naval Reserve and the Coast Guard reserve have performed magnificently. Each of you is a professional that should be proud of their accomplishments for the defense of our great nation.
Thank you and may God bless you and your work in the defense of harbors worldwide that you might be sent to.