Secretary Esper tells re-enlisting Fort Leonard Wood soldiers they are heroes

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News director Gary Knehans at Missourinet Waynesville affiliate KJPW contributed to this story)

(Missourinet)– The U.S. Defense Secretary traveled to southern Missouri’s Waynesville on Thursday to visit Fort Leonard Wood, where he conducted a re-enlistment ceremony where 53 soldiers recommitted their obligation to defend the U-S Constitution.

“You’ll once again be rejoining the greatest military in the world,” Secretary Dr. Mark Esper tells the soldiers. “The military that has defended that document (the Constitution), those rights and values, for over 200 years. Today, you continue that proud legacy.”

Secretary Esper told the soldiers that they are heroes in his book, saying “You are part of that elite one percent … that one percent of the American population that raises their hand, swears that oath and commits to do everything they can and everything that might be to protect our great country.”

Fort Leonard Wood trains more than 80,000 military and civilians each year.

Soldiers who re-enlisted say it was an honor to have the Secretary of Defense at the base. Specialist Jesus Roldan with the 5th Engineer Battalion describes it as an honor and a surprise.

“Just for the simple fact of what is going on today with the process that’s currently happening, the pandemic (coronavirus) that’s currently going around … and for him to go out of his way and pretty much re-enlist every single soldier here, it means a lot,” Spc. Roldan says.

Fort Leonard Wood officials say Secretary Esper also met Thursday with Fort Leonard Wood commanding general Major General Donna Martin. He also met with 14 service members from the Army, Marines and the Air Force, to hear their concerns about readiness and racism in the U.S. military.

Esper also observed basic combat training, and had a discussion with base leaders about the issue of COVID-19.

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