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Monday, May 12, 2014 - 8:35pm
As a youngster growing up in a small town in the Midwest, Brad R. Carson recalled talking to other kids about their hometown hero who joined the Army and went off to war in Vietnam and received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
"It was an impactful thing," he said. "I looked up at that example and it was something I aspired to."
Now, Carson is the Army's new undersecretary. He gave his remarks during an official swearing in ceremony in the Pentagon auditorium, Friday.
On Wednesday, the Army will honor its tenth Medal of Honor recipient since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, he continued.
"Each of these men are truly remarkable. In a moment of great extremity, they did an amazing thing. The one thing I learned serving beside Soldiers in Iraq, I know many people who do amazing things in certain circumstances," he continued.
"Soldiers have this connection beyond themselves; a mission greater than the individual and a willingness to sacrifice themselves if necessary. Those values are considered by many to be quaint or old-fashioned. But they still live on in the Army," he added.
Carson then explained the roundabout way he ended up serving with Soldiers in Iraq.
From 2000 to 2004, he served in the House of Representatives, representing Oklahoma's second district. He then campaigned for the U.S. Senate, but was defeated, after having voted for the Iraq war.
"I remember when I was campaigning for the U.S. Senate, this is a very controversial vote," he said. "Obviously, the country was deeply divided about the wisdom of that decision and they were challenging me all the time about whether or not that was the right decision. So I defended it wherever I went.
"And people would often say, 'you wouldn't do that except' or 'it's easy to do this when you're in Congress, because your kids don't go,'" he said, meaning that none of his family were in danger of being hurt or killed in battle.
Then he was defeated in his election to become a senator, and subsequently deployed to Iraq as a naval intelligence officer, embedded with the Army's 84th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, from 2009 to 2010.
Carson said he "feels very fortunate" that he "was defeated at an age when I could still go and do that," meaning to serve.
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, who swore Carson in during the Pentagon ceremony, then finished the story of what followed.
Carson was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service Iraq, which included investigating bomb locations, caches, smuggling routes and improvise explosive device sites and issues.
"He joined during a time of war and at a late age, and that's impressive," McHugh said, listing many of Carson's achievements, including Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.
McHugh couldn't pass up a few jokes about Carson serving in the Navy, but highlighted his prior service with the Army as general counsel for the secretary.
"We almost didn't get Carson," McHugh said. "The Navy secretary wanted him as their general counsel. When approached about the job, he was in Iraq, but turned it down because he didn't want to leave his troops."
That's the kind of person he is, McHugh said, providing another example in closing.
"Brad is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, so it seems fitting to close with the words of another proud member of that nation, another famous Oklahoman, the American humorist Will Rogers.
"Rogers once said, 'If you want to be successful, it's this simple. Know what you're doing, love what you're doing, and believe in what you're doing,'" McHugh recalled.
"Anyone who's worked with Brad Carson can attest to the fact that no matter the problem, no matter the challenge, he always knows what he's doing," McHugh continued. "His proven, steadfast commitment to our Soldiers and our Army families is a testament to the fact that he truly loves what he's doing and his sincerity, his work ethic, his strength of character show that he deeply believes in what he's doing each and every day.
"I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that the president couldn't have made a finer choice in selecting Brad as the 31st undersecretary of the Army," McHugh concluded.
As Army undersecretary, Carson holds the second-highest civilian post. His responsibilities include the Army's budget, diversity in the ranks, business transformation and energy efficiency initiatives. He was informally sworn in as undersecretary, March 27.
Carson's father Jack and his son Jack attended the ceremony, as did his wife Julie, who is a lawyer for the Response Systems Panel, investigating sexual assault on the behalf of Congress.