Here’s another stirring speech from Rep. Allen West, who really needs no introduction. Every time he speaks, it’s like a valentine to the very best of American public service– honor, wisdom, and love of country.
This week in Washington, my colleagues and I at the Center for Security Policy honored the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. “Buck” McKeon with the 2011 Keeper of the Flame. (More on that, including video, a little later.) As the freshman member of the Armed Services Committee, Rep. West was slated to deliver a benediction to close out the evening.
Covering a sweep of American history and the heroism of the US military, West used the theme of the flame— as in Keeper of the Flame– to stunning effect. I think you’ll agree it’s one of his best.
UPDATE: Transcript follows.
Remarks of CONGRESSMAN ALLEN WEST
The Center for Security Policy’s Keeper of the Flame Award Dinner
October 4, 2011, Union Station, Washington, DC
Senator Kyl and to my boss, Chairman McKeon, congratulations. To the commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General and Mrs. Amos, to all the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, to each and every one of you that’s sitting out there. It’s very tough for me to try to follow that up, but let me see if I can do the best that I can.
When I was sitting there tonight, Mrs. Amos asked me one simple question. She said, what possessed you to want to run for Congress? Well, probably it was too many jumps out of airplanes and hit my head. But I thought about something. Why we’re here tonight.
We’re here tonight because of a flame. And when we talk about a benediction, it takes me back to thinking about the first time a flame was introduced into this world. It’s very simple, when you go to Acts, when those men who were scared because the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been taken away from them, they were told to go to an upper room. And when they were there in that upper room, a comforter came. A comforter came to them in the sense of a flame. That gave them boldness that gave them an incredible spirit to go out and talk about something that had never been heard of, never been preached of before, all across the known world.
But see, that exact same flame somehow made it to these shores. That flame first appeared at a place called Lexington and Concord where men answered the call and went out and stood for something that the world had yet to understand.
That flame made another appearance in the embodiment of a man by the name of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote an incredible document called The Declaration of Independence, which set forth this great nation. That flame made an appearance at Valley Forge in a cold, dark night when our General George Washington knelt down on his knees and prayed and that flame led the way across the Delaware River to a triumph at Trenton. That flame, even though the British came here and burned down this great capitol, even though the British shelled Fort McHenry, that flame still remained.
It was a flame that President Abraham Lincoln talked about not too far away from here in a place called Gettysburg where he paid tribute to those who gave that last full measure of devotion for a country that was the last and greatest hope for this world, so that this government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from this earth.
It was a flame it was a flame that led the way for pioneers as we expanded this great nation out west. It was a flame that somehow found its way into the Belleau Wood and to the trenches of World War One. It was a flame that rose out from the depths of Pearl Harbor, that somehow came out of the deserts of defeat at Kasserine Pass.
It was a flame that crossed the Pacific, landing upon beach upon beach, climbing Iwo Jima, it was a flame that landed at Normandy, it was a flame that shone brightly December 1944 at Bastogne. It was a flame that survived the Pusan Perimeter and landed at Inchon and even during those cold dreaded days and nights at Chosan, it still continued to burn. It was a flame that led the way through the dark triple canopy of Vietnam and it was a flame that continued to shine as these United States stood against the Soviet Union, what we knew was a Cold War, it kept us warm.
It was a flame that spearheaded one of the greatest open desert battles in Desert Shield and Desert Storm and led the way as those rockets and missiles from Apaches and MLRS and our strike forces went across and defeated what was supposed to be the mother of all battles.
It was a flame that in 2003, with men such as Colonel James Hickey, who was the second brigade commander, fourth infantry division, the brigade that captured Saddam Hussein, one of my dear friends and one of my former bosses who is here tonight.
It’s that flame that continues to shine ten thousand feet altitude in Afghanistan and it led the way for those US Navy SEALS to go and take down the world’s greatest known terrorist, Osama bin Laden.
Tonight, what is that flame? It’s the flame that each and every one of us has within us. It is the flame of freedom, it is the flame of liberty, and it is the flame of democracy.
And tonight, we have recognized and we have honored a man that at this important time in the history of this two hundred and thirty-five year, the longest running Constitutional republic that the world has ever known, you have been entrusted to be a keeper of that flame at this time. And I could tell you it’s such a great honor to be on your team on the Armed Services Committee.
Once upon a time I coined a little phrase that said, “I would go through hell with a gasoline can” and, sir, I would go through hell with gasoline cans to help you to be the keeper of that flame. Because for me, it was a flame that my father passed on to me, through a brother who served in Vietnam, from his service in World War Two, to my twenty-two years and now we pass that flame on to my nephew, who has already done two tours of duty in Afghanistan. The flame that is the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen, and shall never be extinguished.
It shall shine brighter, because the greatest days of this republic is ahead. I don’t care what stands before us. Our forefathers who first brought that flame to light at Lexington and Concord are looking down upon us right now. And we shall not let them down.
So as my benediction-I guess Frank since I’m from the south, I know how to preach-I would ask that God bless us, each and every one of us, that God keeps each and every one of us in the hollow of his hand. That God will continue to keep that flame that he first sent down some two thousand years ago to those men in the upper room in Jerusalem, the flame that we carry forth today.
Never forget that flame.
Never forget the men and women who have sacrificed so that we can carry forward.
And for Chairman Buck McKeon of the Armed Services Committee, you have been charged with a great mantle of responsibility, to be one of those few blessed Americans– such as Ronald Reagan, who believed in peace through strength– that you are now keeper of the flame of these blessed United States of America.
May God bless you all and thank you.