Wallace delivers eloquent farewell to V Corps
Stars and Stripes June 15, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Beneath the mammoth crystal chandelier in the grand ballroom in one of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s palaces, a military band played the U.S. national anthem.
Not for kings nor dictators, but for one war leader who said goodbye to his troops and welcomed another to the helm of the U.S. Army’s V Corps.
On Saturday, at a lakeside palace now named Camp Victory Palace, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace spoke of the sorrow he felt over leaving his soldiers, but said his heart will remain with them as they continue to work to restore security and order to Iraq.
“I’ve got a really good speech here … but they are the wrong words, wrong time for the wrong place,” he said of his written remarks, which included the words of a World War I general about the corps and recapped battles that U.S. forces had fought to topple the Iraqi regime.
Instead, he set aside his slick, white binder and delivered an impromptu address about family and freedom, and he honored troops who died in those battles.
Saturday was about family — from soldiers who share that strong familial bond that “nothing like the experience of combat can bring,” to spouses and children left at home who also experience “sacrifices just as great as those represented on this battlefield.”
“And today is about freedom, and standing here in this hall and hearing the national anthem brings a lump to my throat the size of a fist,” said the three-star general who garnered a standing ovation during the ceremony.
Wallace, who was set to leave Iraq on Saturday for Germany, will command the Combat Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Newly promoted Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, former commander of the 1st Armored Division, assumed command as the Army on Saturday celebrated its 228th birthday.
It’s not the generals who alone won the war, Sanchez said.
“The soldier on point is who we all work for,” said Sanchez, who moments earlier received his third star from Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of the Coalition Joint Task Force-7 in Iraq.
On Sunday, V Corps assumes responsibility of the the joint task force, the command and control element of combat and security operations in Iraq.