Austin Reaches Out to Service Members on Olympic, Paralympic Teams

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WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III took a break from security discussions in Singapore to congratulate U.S. service members competing in the Olympics and Paralympics.

Austin spoke via Zoom to 15 service members on the teams. Some were in Tokyo, others in the United States.

''I wanted to just reach out to you and congratulate all of you for the tremendous work that you've done to get to where you are,'' Austin said. ''It is truly remarkable, it is truly a big deal, and I wanted you to know that we're enormously proud of each and every one of you.''

Austin told the team members that he appreciated the hard work they put in to not only be outstanding service members, but elite athletes representing the United States on the world stage.

He spoke with Army 1st Lt. Amber English who received the Gold Medal in Women's Skeet competition. She set the Olympic record with her performance.

Austin asked her if she knew she would do so well. ''I knew when I got here that if I … just allowed myself to do what I know how to do, and stay as calm as possible and focus, that it would be a successful outcome,'' she said.

He asked if she had any advice for her fellow service members at the games. ''I would just say to enjoy the ride,'' the young lieutenant said.

Austin also spoke with Army Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth ''Ellie'' Marks, a Paralympian swimmer. Marks has competed in a number of competitions including the Invictus Games, where she met Britain’s Prince Harry. ''I had no idea who he was,'' she told the secretary. ''I just thought he was a spectator of the sport. But he has become a champion.''

Marks will begin competition soon and is watching the Olympics with interest. ''I feel incredibly inspired by the performance of my teammates, and they are doing wonderful things with the Olympics,'' she said. ''I hope that I can do them proud at the Paralympics.''

Austin told Marks that she is already making Americans proud. ''All of you are making us proud,'' he told the service members.