Vice President Dick Cheney's first visit Friday to Fort Leavenworth was a memorable one for hundreds of people, but perhaps none more than Lt. Col. Kenneth Duxbury.
Duxbury, a faculty member at the Command and General Staff College at the fort, was one of five Army soldiers to receive a Combat Action Badge from Cheney.
"It was a very big day, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Duxbury, who received the award for his actions during the initial attack of the current Iraq war and subsequent actions while serving with the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) from March to June 2003 in northern Baghdad.
On hand to witness the event were Duxbury's wife, Gemma, their children, Dillon, 13, and Maggie, 11, and his mother-in-law, Clara Harty, who flew in from her home in New Jersey.
Cheney, the highest-ranking American official to visit the post in its nearly 180-year history, paid a 40-minute visit to the fort's Haney Gymnasium just after noon Friday. The visit came after a midmorning stop at a Harley-Davidson plant in Kansas City, Mo.
Cheney walked with a limp and used a cane during the visits. His spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, said the vice president was bothered by a recurrent, pre-existing foot condition.
In addition to awarding the Combat Action Badges and presiding over a re-enlistment ceremony for five other soldiers, Cheney delivered a 20-minute speech in which he called for renewal of the Patriot Act, praised the assembled soldiers for their efforts and sacrifices, and told the audience of about 1,400 people that the United States would win the war on terror.
Late last month, the U.S. Senate reauthorized the Patriot Act for just 30 days, until Feb. 3, amid civil liberty concerns. Those concerns included secret wiretapping of international phone calls and e-mails of people inside the United States without court-approved warrants.
Cheney was forceful in his defense of the Patriot Act, which he said "has helped us to disrupt terrorist activity, break up terror cells within the United States and protect the lives of Americans."
"We look forward to a renewal of the Patriot Act in 2006 because that law has done exactly what it was intended to do - and this country cannot afford to be without its protections," he said.
To the soldiers in Friday's audience - a majority at the event were in uniform - Cheney expressed the nation's gratitude while acknowledging divisions over the war in Iraq.
"At times you may wonder if your fellow citizens truly realized the extent of your sacrifices and achievements. I want you to know that Americans do realize it and we do not take our military for granted.
"We appreciate fellow citizens who go out on long deployments and endure the hardship of separation from home and family. We care about those who have returned with injuries and who face a hard road ahead. And our nation grieves for the brave men and women whose lives have ended in freedom's cause," he said.
As for the war in Iraq and the war on terror in general, Cheney assured the soldiers the Bush administration would not waiver in its commitment.
"Some have suggested this war is not winnable, and a few seem almost eager to conclude that the whole struggle is already lost. But they are wrong. The only way to lose this fight is to quit - and that is not an option," he said.
For Duxbury, one of the soldiers honored by Cheney, the message was right on.
"He talked about all the things that we as service members want to have addressed," he said.