It is an honor to welcome so many veterans of the “provinces,” the “districts,” and the “platforms.” You conquered difficult and dangerous challenges on the frontlines, and many of you went back for more. America is safer for your courage and your service. Thank you.
I also want to thank and welcome your family members who are here today. While you had the adventures, the families had the worry. Your sacrifice made our missions possible. We cannot possibly thank you enough.
Before we give out the hardware, I wanted to make a few quick points.
First, the work you’ve done in the Frontline States has forever changed the way we tackle new foreign policy challenges. I know this for a fact; I was just in Kabul over the weekend, consulting with our team about transition, security, and economics. Every success we have had in these countries has been built on your accomplishments and sacrifices. The men and women we honor today have been the trailblazers – testing out of new policies and practices that will help us in complex missions for decades to come.
Of course, the Secretary’s vision of civilian power depends on our partners across the entire U.S. Government. So, we recognize the service of your colleagues at USAID, Commerce, Agriculture, Justice, and other federal agencies who served alongside you in Afghanistan and Iraq. Your successes and your frustrations both give us real-life lessons that will improve future missions.
Second, you set a new standard for engaging communities and advancing people-to-people diplomacy. You served your country in isolated places, often in dangerous circumstances, with few physical comforts. You reached people in places who have rarely seen Americans. You were true partners with Iraqi and Afghan citizens. You helped them reconstruct and reconnect with the great traditions and achievements of their societies.
And to the critics out there: I suggest they spend a year walking in your shoes; living in a container the size of a shoe-box; working 120 hours a week, and needing to wear Kevlar whenever you step outside.
Your actions told a more powerful story than our words ever could about America’s good intentions and our desire to help people lead better lives.
And that leads me to my third point: in this experiment, you accomplished so much – for America and for our partners around the world.
As I read cables and get briefings on the work you do, I’m simply staggered by your innovation and effectiveness. Your reporting from the field on political dynamics; reconciliation efforts, and economic trends was invaluable. You were our eyes and ears. And you made a real difference in the lives of Iraqi and Afghans and Americans.
Personally, I seek out folks who have had these experiences, because I know it makes you stronger. And I know you can handle whatever we throw at you. My last Chief of Staff, Piper Campbell, just finished a year in Basra – and I visited her there to see just what it’s like. My Afghanistan staffer, Raphael Carland, served on a PRT in Afghanistan. Jim Holtsnider, my Middle East expert, is receiving this award with you today having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Department understands your value, seeks you out, and rewards your contributions. Frankly, your courage helped redefine what it means to work for the Department of State. It helped you through daily visits to local communities, walking village streets, taking long convoy rides home, living under constant threat of deadly attack. And it impressed all of us.
You did not just heed the call for expeditionary diplomacy. You led the charge. And, we couldn’t be prouder.
Now, on behalf of Secretary Clinton, I present to you the Expeditionary Service Award:
In grateful recognition
Of your committed service
In extraordinary and arduous conditions
During your field assignment in Iraq or Afghanistan
In spite of constant danger and difficulty
Your contributions to reconstruction, stability and peace
Reflect great credit on yourself and on
The Department of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State