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Excerpts of D/CIA Hayden's Memorial Ceremony Remarks

Excerpts of Remarks by
Central Intelligence Agency Director
General Michael V. Hayden

at Annual Memorial Ceremony

(as prepared for delivery)

May 21, 2007


With grateful hearts, we come together today to honor the extraordinary Americans behind the stars on our Memorial Wall:  Eighty-seven patriots who answered the call to serve and gave their own lives to advance the freedom of others. 

For the men and women of CIA, this constellation is more than a memorial, more than a quiet tribute.  Each star holds memories of a brave intelligence officer whose example we follow, a treasured colleague whose wisdom we keep, or a lost friend whose laughter we miss.

They are not only here in this revered place.  We carry them with us each day.  And our enduring aspiration, as an Agency, is to honor their memory.  We do so by continuing the mission they served so faithfully.

We are privileged to have with us once again the families of our fallen, those whose ties to these stars run deepest of all.  Welcome to our headquarters, where we hope you feel the love and care of your extended family. 

Jeanine and I look forward to speaking with you and learning more about your loved ones.  We know how precious they are to you.  They are precious to us, too.  While we cannot take away your loss, the Agency—your Agency—is here with you, sharing both your sorrow and your pride. 

To stand before these stars is to be reminded that the mission of intelligence is unlike any other.  Of those remembered here, there are thirty-three whose lives with CIA we mention only within these walls.  They showed unmatched devotion to duty—working to protect Americans with no expectation of public recognition or acclaim.  They are memorialized by silent stars, but their stories echo loudly inside these halls and touch deeply inside our hearts.

Those thirty-three heroes are united with fifty-four others whose names the world can know.  Publicly heralded or not, they are each models of integrity, loyalty, and courage. 

Duty bound them together on Earth.  Honor joins them for all eternity.  Together they tell a remarkable story about love of country.

Earlier this spring, four stars were added to our Wall.  They commemorate the lives of four Americans.  Two were part of the world as we know it today, a world where the threats of terrorism, weapons proliferation, war, and instability are met by the talent and determination of a new generation of patriots. 

Two others are of an earlier generation.  They served with distinction a half-century ago, as our nation worked to confine communism and strengthen the resolve of free peoples across four continents.  Their contributions can now be recognized and proper homage paid to their sacrifice.

James McGrath joined CIA in 1951 after serving as a radar and communications technician in the Navy and working as an electronics repairman back home in Connecticut.  He was searching for a better future and saw in the Agency a place that would both use his skills and satisfy his desire to serve.  Asia was the natural choice for his first tour of duty.  He had spent most of his time in the Navy there.  And, in less than four years, he rose from GS-5 to GS-11—a testament to his talent, and a reflection of the high regard his colleagues had for him. 

Soon James was assigned to Germany, where the Cold War standoff between liberty and tyranny was still in its first decade.  He and his team of officers were charged with maintaining and operating a transmitter site in Langen.  When information our country needed was in short supply, James helped pull back the Iron Curtain. 

Fifty years ago last January, James died at age 29.  He was repairing a broken transmitter—essential work—when, in a terrible accident, he was electrocuted.  An officer of great talent and equal potential was lost in an instant.  His grieving wife returned to America with a very young daughter and a son on the way.

Stephen Kasarda, Jr., like James, was a communications officer.  He grew up in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, the only son of an Austrian immigrant who married a local girl and made a modest living as a riveter.  Stephen joined the Navy after high school—service that gave him the right skills and background to succeed in intelligence work.  He came to CIA in 1955. 

In his five years with us, Stephen had only tough assignments, first in the Middle East and then in Asia. He earned a reputation for hard work and initiative, and in April 1960, at age 30, he was tapped for temporary duty at one of our most sensitive sites.

His job was to support the Agency’s air supply mission to Tibet.  He and another officer would live and work in a small communications facility at a remote airfield in Southeast Asia.  From there, they would communicate with aircraft supplying the Tibetans, and stand ready to support emergency landings in case of trouble.

Only two weeks after arriving at the site, Stephen died in a tragic accident.  In 105-degree heat, he stripped down to shoes and shorts and scaled the commo building’s steep metal roof to scout sites for new antennas.  What he could not have known—no one did—was that the roof carried a lethal current from an improperly grounded wire.  It took his life moments later.

After his death, Stephen was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit for his unswerving devotion to duty and outstanding service under hazardous conditions.  He was survived by his wife, mother, and two sisters.

Just as we remember James and Stephen today, CIA officers 50 years from now will remember Rachel Dean.  Our past is our present, and our present is our future.  For CIA, there is a defining constant in the long arc of history:  Our mission to serve and protect.  The men and women who take up that mission are America’s finest.

(At this point, General Hayden told the story behind the fourth star engraved in 2007.  The star commemorates the life and service of a patriot whose courageous work with CIA cannot be made public.)

Rachel Dean is our most recent fallen hero.  Together with family and friends, we gathered not far from here just six months ago to mourn her loss.  We remembered her life of service and dedication, her infectious joy, and friendship to so many. 

Less than two years into CIA, Rachel was already serving overseas when I became Director.  Though I never had the privilege of meeting her, I have learned a great deal about Rachel through the deep admiration of her colleagues, and the loving memories of her parents.

Rachel was a warm and compassionate young woman, and an officer of unbounded potential.  She came to our Directorate of Support soon after graduating from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia.  An international studies major who had lived abroad while her father served in the Navy, Rachel had the talent and experience we seek in new recruits.

Among fellow students in her training program, she quickly became a uniting force.  Her uplifting laugh, penchant for fun, and sincere interest in others brought the twelve young officers together.  Her friendship kept them close even after the demands of our mission scattered them across the globe.

Rachel’s first assignment was Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, a difficult, unfamiliar place.  She was an adventurer, though, and tackled the job with trademark enthusiasm.  She quickly became known as a support officer who got things done, no small praise in a country where modern conveniences are hard to find.  Rachel embraced the challenge; she worked hard—but always with a smile.  Everyone in the tight-knit embassy community loved her.  Simply put, she was a joy to be around.

Last fall, when we needed volunteers to help relocate our embassy in neighboring Kazakhstan, Rachel stepped forward—as she always did when someone needed a hand.  She signed on for two weeks of temporary duty, then stayed longer to help get the job done.  Tragically, last September, on the road from Almaty to Astana, Rachel died in a car accident. 

We miss her still and will remember her always.  She is our 87th star.

For those who knew these extraordinary officers best, time does not soothe the pain that accompanies thoughts of what might have been.  But we can take comfort in knowing what is:  The men and women behind these stars lived nobly, served selflessly, and died honorably.

They inspire us all.

Our nation owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude.  We will repay it by living the values they demonstrated so clearly:  Loyalty, integrity, excellence and service—these are the things that must guide our work.  And then, we will be worthy of their sacrifice.

Each year, this memorial service brings our Agency a renewed sense of purpose.  Pausing and reflecting on these stars reminds us of who we are and why we serve.  They tell an inspiring story of our past and give us abiding hope in the future.  For this, too, we are grateful.

May God bless these 87 patriots, and may He hold their families close, today and always.

 


Historical Document
Posted: May 22, 2007 01:24 PM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:49 AM