Petraeus lauds vets, Purple Heart recipients in NY
| June 25, 2010 2:00 PM
Gen. David Petraeus paid tribute to more than 400 veterans _ including 100 recipients of the Purple Heart _ Friday in upstate New York, days after he was asked to add command of the U.S. war in Afghanistan to his leadership of the war in Iraq.
The Army general picked by President Barack Obama to replace the U.S. military's top commander in Afghanistan was the keynote speaker at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Tribute in New Windsor, Orange County.
He didn't mention his current assignments, focusing instead on the sacrifice of the gathered veterans, especially those who earned the Purple Heart, an honor bestowed on those wounded or killed in combat.
"Today's troopers stand on the shoulders of those who came before them and because of your service, they stand very tall indeed," he said.
In an unscripted moment, he invited each of the 100 Purple Heart recipients and several Gold Star mothers, those who have lost children in combat, onstage to shake their hand and give them a commemorative coin.
Obama tapped Petraeus for the top job in Afghanistan after accepting Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation Wednesday. He currently oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as head of U.S. Central Command.
When he introduced Petraeus, friend and former classmate Alan Seidman handed him a bottle of water and said: "We want you healthy," referring to an episode last year when Petraeus briefly collapsed during Senate testimony, apparently from dehydration.
Petraeus joked that he was staying hydrated and healthy.
New Windsor is home to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
Later, Petraeus gave the commencement speech at nearby Cornwall High School, where he graduated in 1970. Recounting challenges he faced in his military career, he told the graduates there were four elements in achieving their objectives: planning, acting, dreaming, and believing.
"Regardless of the magnitude of the challenge you face, remember you can overcome it if you have a goal, the belief that you can achieve it, and the determination and perseverance to turn that belief into reality," he said.
"As you do all this stay hydrated," he added, to laughter and applause.