- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

Gen. Peter Pace accepted the 15th annual Keeper of the Flame award Wednesday on behalf of U.S. armed forces both here and abroad.

After the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was honored by the Center for Security Policy for his lifetime of public service, he expanded the spotlight to thank another set of heroes: loved ones who wait at home living in dread of the worst kind of news from the front.

“These families … are patriots in a quiet, small way,” Gen. Pace said, struggling to control his emotions. “It is so much more difficult to be a family member than to be the one in uniform.”

The center’s Flame Award, inaugurated in 1990, recognizes those who give much to strengthen the nation’s security and help spread democracy.

Wednesday’s black-tie gala at the Mayflower Hotel gathered military brass and contractors along with a parade of Washington insiders, including Sens. Ted Stevens and Jon Kyl, Reps. Philip Crane and Christopher Cox, former Pentagon policy adviser Richard Perle, gruff talk-show host John McLaughlin, Fox News’ Rita Cosby,publisher Al Regneryand the center’s president,Frank Gaffney, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.

Gen. James Jones, a previous Flame winner, recalled how the guest of honor avoided the easy path and always succeeded in whatever he tackled.

“He’s someone who would put duty over self and make the best out of it,” Gen. Jones said, telling how Gen. Pace took over military recruitment at a failing Buffalo office years ago and consistently met quotas thereafter.

“You will never get Peter Pace to give you anything but the rock honest truth,” he added.

Gen. Pace, who forsook the podium and addressed the crowd with microphone in hand, said soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan want a simple truth from those back home.

“What they want to know is, are the American people behind us?” Gen. Pace said.

In turn, he noted, the troops are learning firsthand just why they’re fighting. They understand they’re living with people who have never known freedom.

Earlier in the evening, election matters topped the war in Iraq insofar as pre-dinner conversation was concerned.

When it came to security issues in the 2004 presidential race, it was clear that character counts, Mr. Kyle said.

Voters want a president “who has the character to ensure the safety of the American people. The debates already have demonstrated that the other side does not,” the Iowa Republican said with full partisan bluster.

Others agreed that security issues are very much on the minds of today’s voters.

“They want straight answers and consistency,” Mr. Regnery said. “I’d like to think they don’t want to change horses midstream.”

Christian Toto

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