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It’s a plain, unadorned painting -- just a general officer in service-dress alphas looking straight at you. But the portrait of retired Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace now hanging in the Pentagon captures the measure of the man.
The portrait hangs on the E-Ring in the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff corridor. Pace served as the 16th chairman, and the painting joins those of all chairmen going back to General of the Army Omar N. Bradley.
Former Marine Peter E. Egeli painted the portrait.
“I didn’t want a lot of distraction in it,” Egeli said in a short interview. “The background is red. That signifies the wars we fought. I wanted the attention on the general.”
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the current chairman, hosted the portrait-unveiling ceremony at the Pentagon auditorium today. He praised his predecessor — the first Marine to serve as chairman — for his leadership, his caring and his intellect.
“His leadership and caring for the men and women who serve live with him today,” Mullen said. He called Pace a “Marine’s Marine” and said the portrait recognizes a very special individual. The chairman also recognized Pace’s wife, Lynne, for her contributions to the military and her advocacy of military families.
Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England; retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Pace’s predecessor as chairman; retired Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, the former vice chairman; Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen; and many serving officers of the Joint Staff and civilian leaders attended the unveiling.
Pace thanked all for attending, and he thanked Rumsfeld for appointing him as vice chairman and chairman.
“History will be written at the right time,” Pace said to Rumsfeld. “The folks in this room wearing uniforms and the civilian leaders in this room are going to come out looking the way they should — as true patriots and heroes of our country.”
Pace said in the 15 months since he retired he has had time to think about what went right and what didn’t. “I certainly made some wrong estimates. And I certainly made some recommendations that if I could take them back and change them, I would, given the knowledge of today,” he said. “But I also know that given the exact same data, at the exact same time in history, I would give the exact same advice.”
Pace said that all involved in the weighty decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan learned, and that the learning led to better advice. “I’m immensely proud of what has not happened because of the dialogue that has gone on among our senior civilian leaders and our senior military leaders,” he said.
Pace spoke of the portrait and thanked Egeli “for treating me gently,” but also spoke of the portrait that “is the canvas of my heart.” He said it was an incredible privilege to serve.
“I miss it. I miss being able to reach out and touch folks in uniform,” he said. “If I could find a way to serve the nation again, I would.”
In the audience was Marine 1st Lt. Andrew Kinnard — a young man wounded in Iraq. “Some people mistakenly would say that Andrew lost his legs in combat. Wrong,” Pace said. “Andrew gave his legs. He sacrificed his legs so that we might live in this incredible country.”
Pace said one of the best aspects of retired life is being able to work with wounded warriors and the families of the fallen. “Andrew, to you — and to every other servicemember who has sacrificed for our country — thank you,” Pace said.
Mullen noted the Paces’ life of service, and quoted from Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon. “Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone: Kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own,” the chairman said.
“Thank you for your friendship, thanks for your service,” Mullen added. “Thanks for being the leader you have been and the Marine you have been my entire life.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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