Words of the Commander USS Kennedy, 10 Mar 02

Here are the words of Captain Ronald H. Henderson, Jr., the  Commanding Officer of USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), speaking over the  ship's (1MC) general announcing system just before the JFK launched her first strikes into Afghanistan 10 March. The CO's words follow this excerpt:

"Good evening onboard John F Kennedy, Carrier Air Wing SEVEN, and Carrier Group Six. We are currently preceding at best speed to our launch point for tonight's  trikes, off the coast of Pakistan, nearly 700 miles south of our targets in Afghanistan. At midnight, CVW-7 will launch into the dark night, and strike their first blows of Operation Enduring Freedom, the war on terrorism. For us this is a culminating point in space, a culminating point in time, and a culminating point in history. Our enemy is a group of religious fanatics, who pervert the peace of Islam and twist its meaning to justify the murder of thousands of innocents at the Twin Towers of New York, at the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania.

They hate us and attack us because they oppose all that is good about America. They hate us because we are prosperous. They hate us because we are tolerant. They hate us because we are happy. Mostly, they hate us because we are free and because we will "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty." Make no mistake - this is fight for Western Civilization. If these monsters are not destroyed they will destroy us, and our children and children's children will live in fear forever.  America is the only nation that can stop them and destroy them. Only America has the strength of character and the vast resources to hunt these fanatics down anywhere in the world. We have friends and Allies but we are the leaders of the world our forefathers made and died for. Our Naval power has been the principal weapon of our resolve. Great ships and great crews have gone before us - ENTERPRISE, CARL VINSON, KITTY HAWK, TEDDY ROOSEVELT,  JOHN  STENNIS.

Tonight, our enemies will feel the power of USS JOHN F KENNEDY

It is now our turn to strike for justice and we will strike hard.  Millions of Americans wish they could be here tonight with us. They saw the Twin Towers fall, and watched helplessly, wanting to do something to defend America and our way of life. For us tonight, that wait and that helplessness are over. We have reached the point where we are all part of something so much greater than ourselves. For the rest of our lives, no matter whether we stay in the Navy or move on to civilian life, no matter what we do or where we go, we will remember that on 10 March 2002, we came together and struck a blow for freedom. All of us are volunteers. Most of us joined the Navy to serve our country and better ourselves.

Tonight and in the nights to come we are given the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to truly make a difference in the world. Our namesake John F. Kennedy wrote that "a single person can make a difference, and every person should try." Tonight, WE make a difference! We represent America in all its power and diversity. We are men and women, rich and poor, black and white, and all colors of the human rainbow. We are Christian, Jew, and yes, Muslim. WE ARE AMERICA. This war will not be short, pleasant, or easy. It has already required the sacrifice of our firefighters, our policemen, our soldiers, our Sailors, our airmen, and our Marines. More sacrifices will be made. In the end we  will win, precisely because we are those things that the terrorists hate -  prosperous, happy, tolerant, and most of all, free.

Those Americans who wish they could be here with us are, in fact, here with us in spirit. Never before in American history has our nation been so completely unified and resolute in purpose. Every one of them is cheering us on, praying for our safety and our success. Our families are behind us 100%.

We will not let them down. We are, and will be, men and women of honor, courage, and commitment. I believe, as Abraham Lincoln said, that "America is the last, best hope for the world."

Tonight we hold a shining beacon of that hope. We shall keep it burning brightly. Stay sharp. Stay focused. Stay safe. Use the training that has made you the best Sailors in the world, the best Sailors in the history of the world. Trust in your faith, and in your shipmates. God bless us all, and God bless America.