Cheney speaks to servicemembers aboard USS Kitty Hawk
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — More than 4,000 servicemembers crammed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk for 20 minutes with the U.S. vice president Wednesday.
Vice President Dick Cheney boarded the Navy aircraft carrier for quick handshakes and a speech that gave the troops something to write home about.
“I can’t wait to tell my parents,” said Seaman Alexander Johnson as a 19-gun salute was being rendered topside, “and they’re Democrats.”
Cheney hailed U.S. relations with Japan as “the best they’ve ever been,” and called for a unified offense in the war on terror.
“We’ve struck some major blows,” Cheney said. “The American people will not support a policy of retreat.”
Cheney is in Japan this week to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki. He did not schedule time with Japan’s Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, feeding speculation that it was retribution for Kyuma’s critique of U.S. policy in Iraq.
But Cheney described Japan as one of the United States’ “closest allies in Iraq and Afghanistan” and said the countries shared “common values and strategic objectives.”
The hangar bay was filled with dignitaries — including U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer and U.S. Forces Japan commander Gen. Bruce Wright. But the bulk of the audience was active-duty military — many of whom bused from Camp Zama, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, and Yokota Air Base for the speech. Some waited six hours for it to begin.
The vice-presidential visit was a “big deal,” said the Kitty Hawk’s commanding officer, Capt. Ed McNamee, as the Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier hadn’t had one like it since President John F. Kennedy stepped aboard in 1961.
Petty Officer 1st Class Gracey Dikes chatted with Cheney after he left the podium to shake some hands.
“He asked where I was from,” Dikes said. “I was shocked when he stopped to talk to me. I think he’s right about Iraq — we shouldn’t give in, otherwise, it will all be in vain.”
But the cost of producing the event — which featured food, decorations, music by the Navy band and “Chicago” singer Carol Woods, gave one sailor pause.
“I heard that this whole thing cost almost a quarter-million dollars — that’s a lot of money for a 20-minute speech,” said the sailor, who didn’t want to be named.
Said Petty Officer 3rd Class Leo Gonzalez:
“(The speech) was kind of short, but it was to the point.”
Cheney’s next stop is Guam where he will meet with military on Andersen Air Force Base on Friday.
Some sailors'reactions ...
Seaman Timothy Hardin:
“It was very motivational. It made me have pride in the military, and it made me proud to be aboard Kitty Hawk.”
“We’ve been waiting a long time.”
“What he said motivated me; if it didn’t motivate them (indicating the rest of the crowd), I don’t know what would.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Debbie Miranda:
“It was great, I’m glad he came — it’s a real honor.”
Fireman Rob Covington:
“What he said was pretty much what we already knew.”
“It was great. We don’t get to see someone like him (Cheney) often — it was great motivation.”
Compiled by Stars and Stripes