HONORING THE 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION (AIR ASSAULT) ON ITS RETURN FROM OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM-HON. JIM COOPER (Extensions of Remarks - March 02, 2004)
HON. JIM COOPER
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2004
Mr. COOPER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the heroes of the Army's 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). This famous division needs little introduction. Brave members of the "Screaming Eagle" division have fought for their country in countless towns and cities in the 62 years of the division's service to America. In earlier wars, and in places such as Normandy, Eindhoven, Bastogne, and the A Shau Valley, thousands of brave Americans have fought while proudly wearing the emblem of the 101st on their left sleeve.
Today I honor a new generation of heroes from the 101st. After almost a year overseas in the Persian Gulf and in Iraq, thousands of the brave men and women of this storied unit have returned home. Of course, thousands of other US troops-soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines-have also served in Iraq or serve there today, including more than a thousand members of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard. However, today I pay special tribute to the members of the fabled "Screaming Eagle" division in honor of their return to Tennessee.
These soldiers have seen a great deal since they were last home at Fort Campbell. First came the excitement of a rapid deployment and intensive training in Kuwait. For veteran and new recruit alike, this was a time of mixed emotions. On one hand, I'm sure they all felt the excitement of being on the verge of doing what they've trained for years to do: fight and win our nation's wars. At the same time, the thought of real combat was surely a source of worry and concern. Throughout the division, soldiers asked themselves the same question that soldiers have asked for centuries: When the time comes, will I measure up? When my buddies need me, will I be there for them? And most importantly-will I make it home?
Then came the first phase of the war in Iraq-the drive to Baghdad. During this phase of the war, the 101st fought in dozens of towns and cities. As is often the case in war, they encountered challenges they did not expect. But, as is also often the case in war, the fighting spirit and ingenuity of the American soldier overcame these challenges. In back alleys, across barren desert, on vital bridges, in tall buildings, and lowly huts, the troops of the 101st Airborne Division lived up to the reputation of previous generations of "Screaming Eagles." On the road to Baghdad they added new towns-like Karbala and Najaf-to the already long list of places where members of the 101st Airborne Division have made us proud.
Once Baghdad fell and Saddam went into hiding, the war entered a new, and in some ways more difficult phase-a guerilla war against remnants of Saddam's regime. For this phase the 101st was assigned an enormous and diverse section of northern Iraq, where they had the challenging dual mission of continuing to fight the enemy while also starting Iraq on the long road to democracy and economic reconstruction. Though it should not come as a surprise, the soldiers and leaders of the 101st showed that they were once again up to the challenge. The 101st succeeded in missions as diverse as building schools, training policemen, repairing utilities, and distributing new currency-all the while continuing to conduct combat operations against insurgents.
The members of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) clearly deserve our thanks for their fine service in Iraq, but so does another group of patriots-the families at Fort Campbell and elsewhere that had to stay behind. So, while I congratulate the men and women of the "Screaming Eagle" division, I want to also add my personal thanks to the family members and friends of the brave troops who served in Iraq.
Mr. Speaker, I think I speak for all members of Congress when I congratulate the 101st Division on a job well done in Iraq, and I pray for the safe return of all our troops serving overseas.