Friday, May 02, 2008

Remarks From AFSA's Memorial Plaque Ceremony

Remarks From The American Foreign Service Association's Memorial Plaque Ceremony

By John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 2, 2008

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: As is customary, we pause during Foreign Affairs Day to remember the men and women of the Foreign and Civil Service who made the supreme sacrifice for their country while serving overseas. It’s my privilege to share with you a message from President George W. Bush, and I quote:

"I send greetings to those gathered for Foreign Affairs Day at the Department of State. Those who serve in the Foreign Service and the Civil Service and as Foreign Service nationals are performing their duties during a defining moment in our country's history. Through hard work and determination they advance America's founding ideals. As emissaries to the world, these fine individuals bring pride to our nation and help extend hope around the world.

This event is an opportunity to pay special tribute to those who have given their lives in service of our nation. We remember Tom Stefani and John Granville, two men who made the ultimate sacrifice while striving to bring peace to troubled lands. We lift them up in our prayers and ask for God's blessing on them and their families.

I appreciate all those who helped make this event a success. I also applaud the Foreign Service, the Civil Service, and the Foreign Service nationals for your loyalty and dedication to duty. Your devotion to the universality of freedom is an inspiration and helps make America a light to the nations.

Laura and I send our best wishes on this special occasion. May God bless you and may God bless America."

That is the end of the President's message. The American Foreign Service Association organizes this ceremony each year to honor our Foreign Affairs family who lost their lives in the line of duty. Each name on these memorial plaques represents a story of bravery and sacrifice.

Today, sadly, we honor two more: Steven Thomas Stefani, IV and John Michael Granville. Steven Thomas Stefani, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service employee, on voluntary assignment with the Foreign Agricultural Service in Afghanistan, was serving as an agricultural advisor on a Provincial Reconstruction Team when he was killed in an explosion on October 4th, 2007 in Ghazni Province. Tom, as he was known to his family and friends, was 28 years old and he had just requested an extension of his service. We are honored to have his parents, Barbara and Steven Stefani III and one of his two brothers, Jason, here with us today. Tom loved life, dreamed big, and was always eager to share his knowledge with others. He developed leadership skills early in 4-H and as a Boy Scout. As a college student, he returned to his hometown to give back generously to the kids and the organizations that had given so much to him.

To his colleagues at the Forest Service and in Afghanistan, Tom was known for his fairness, his integrity, and his effectiveness. He kept his word and he got things done. Tom's contributions, while serving in Ghazni, will have a lasting impact on the people and the agricultural economy of Afghanistan. Many of his colleagues from Afghanistan's PRT are with us here today. Thank you all for your service.

Tom's generous spirit will continue to touch Afghan lives even though he is gone. His mother, Barbara, is working to realize a dream that her son had while serving in Afghanistan: to build a playground for the children he saw playing in the streets. Barbara has collected donations of playground equipment, enough to furnish eight playgrounds. And the State Department is currently working with USAID and the Department of Defense to transport the equipment to Afghanistan and make Tom's dream his legacy.

Today, we also honor John Michael Granville. While serving as a Democracy and Governance Officer with USAID in Sudan, John was killed in Khartoum on January 1st, 2008, along with his Sudanese driver, Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama, when their vehicle came under fire. He was 33 years old, a Buffalo native, and he leaves behind his mother Jane Granville, Sister Katie McCabe and her family, as well as many close friends and colleagues.

John was an extraordinary man who touched the lives of people from Buffalo, all the way to remote villages in Cameroon, where he served for two years with the Peace Corps. While there he helped build and support a bilingual elementary school that provides education and hope for scores of children. He later returned to Cameroon as a Fulbright scholar and had served in Kenya before his assignment to Sudan.

One of John's Cameroonian friends said this at John's funeral, and I quote: "John did not stand from a distance to watch us. He was one of us. He spoke our language, ate our food, observed and practiced our traditions, respected our ways, and worked with us, even when he disagreed with us. He always placed himself in the shoes of the people he worked and lived with. He tried to see the world through our eyes, through their personal experiences."

John was a model officer and his many friends and colleagues with us today are a tribute to a kind, generous spirit. We will never forget John, Tom, and the other men and women who have given their lives for our country. Their memories will be a source of pride and inspiration for us to continue serving the cause, for which they died, protecting our country, bettering the lives of all Americans, and sharing America's blessings of peace, security, and freedom with the world.

And now, if we could stand for a moment of silence, please.

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