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Public Statements

Honoring Our Armed Forces

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I rise to pay homage to Sergeant Ross Pennanen, who, in the words of his father, "gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country-his life." Sergeant Pennanen, or "Penn", as his friends called him, was a dedicated defender of America who learned the value of serving his country from his father's example in the United States Air Force. For his service and his sacrifice, I am proud to honor him on the Senate floor today.

Sergeant Pennanen was assigned to C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, III Corps Artillery at Fort Sill, OK. A native Oklahoman whose mother and father live in Ada and Midwest City, respectively, Sergeant Pennanen grew up in McLoud and joined the Army 2 years ago at the age of 34 in hopes of improving himself and emulating his father. He was himself a good father who spent a lot of time with his 7-year-old son, Gage.

Sergeant Pennanen died tragically on November 2 when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in which he was riding crashed in Fallujah, Iraq. He was a good soldier: he received the Army Commendation Medal two days before his death. Despite questions about his age, Sergeant Pennanen proved a "gung-ho" example for his fellow soldiers. According to his stepmother, "He didn't keep up with them. He set the pace out in front of them."

On behalf of the U.S. Senate, I ask that we pay tribute to Sergeant Pennanen and the men and women like him, who know the true meaning of service and sacrifice. These men and women have tasted freedom, and wish to ensure that freedom for those who have never experienced it. I honor the memory of our sons and daughters who have died for this noble cause.

We could not have asked for a better soldier or diplomat of humanity than Sergeant Ross Pennanen. I am proud of him, and proud of the commitment he showed to winning the freedom of those he did not know. My prayers are with his family for the loss of such a special man.


Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the memory of a courageous young Oklahoman who died while defending his Nation. Private Jason M. Ward grew up in the great State of Oklahoma, and was a 1997 graduate of Broken Arrow High School.

Private Ward joined the military in April 2002, although he had been seriously considering military service for years. He married his high school sweetheart after graduating, and when Jason and Jordan welcomed their first son shortly thereafter, the duties of fatherhood took priority. After having another son 4 years later, Jason and Jordan began discussing Jason's longtime military aspirations and decided that it would be a good time for him to pursue a lifelong career in the military.

Private Ward was a member of the 1st Armored Division, stationed at Fort Riley, KS. His unit was sent to the Middle East in March to protect the freedom of this fellow Americans, and he was highly involved in the outstanding and courageous work of that unit. Unfortunately, Private Ward fell ill, and was scheduled to return to the U.S. for treatment when he unexpectedly passed away. His sudden death has left his young family with questions that none of us can answer, but we can tell them with confidence that Private Ward was serving his Nation with honor until this tragedy took his life.

Private Ward was only 25 years old when he died. I hope his friends and family know that he died a true hero, worthy of the respect and gratitude of every American because of his contribution to defending his country. His loved ones will miss him dearly, and our thoughts and prayers are with them today. And though we are all grieved by the loss of this man, we will never cease to be proud of him-Oklahoma's son and America's hero-Private Jason M. Ward.


Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I stand today to honor the memory of a brave young American who gave his life defending the Nation. He felt a call to serve his country, to be part of something bigger than himself, and ultimately, paid the highest price.

SPEC Dustin K. McGaugh, of Derby, KS, was a firing specialist assigned to the Army's 17th Field Artillery Brigade stationed in Fort Sill, OK. His mother, Marina Hayes, lives in Tulsa, OK, where he graduated from high school in 2001.

On September 30 in Balad, Iraq, he died tragically from a non-hostile gunshot wound. He gave his life for the freedom of millions of Americans, and also for the peace and prosperity of the Iraqi people crippled by a totalitarian regime.

Specialist McGaugh had a heart for the less fortunate. According to his fellow soldiers, he would leave the safety of his Jeep and give candy to the Iraqi children. Imagine an American soldier who truly cared for the least among us, and performed simple acts of kindness to his fellow humans. Imagine an American soldier who represented America with a noble heart, and reminded us all of the freedoms we take for granted. Specialist McGaugh was that soldier.

His compassion is a microcosm of the American spirit, the spirit that drives us to fight oppression around the world. The Iraqi people are an oppressed people, and Specialist McGaugh showed us how our inherent humanity can overcome even the broadest of differences. He refused to sit idly and watch the tyranny in Iraq take place any longer. It is for the sake of these broken, defeated people that Specialist McGaugh risked his life on a daily basis. It is for these people that he gave his life in the end. He was a true American hero.

His twin sister Windy said that her "kid brother" became her hero. Specialist McGaugh should not only be his sister's hero, but the Nation's hero as well. He set a high example of what it means to be an American and what it means to be human. It is for men like Specialist McGaugh that I am proud to be a part of this great country. He was a special soldier, but more importantly, a special man.

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