"We don't have to have a translator when Tommy talks to the president," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers joked to a dinner audience of New York City's rich and powerful Thursday on board the USS Intrepid.
"They talk in a code most of us don't know. They show each other belt buckles they buy in Austin, Texas. They show each other cowboy boots they buy wherever."
Myers gave the keynote speech at a fund-raising dinner honoring Franks and supporting the Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier now permanently moored in Manhattan as a public museum.
It was a night for New Yorkers to thank the man who seeks to eliminate those who terrorized this city and the nation on Sept. 11. No talk of mistakes made in Afghanistan or friendly fire deaths. No talk of the failure to find Bin Laden. And certainly no talk of recent reports that Franks and Myers are privately urging Bush to go slow in expanding the war to Iraq.
Martin Edelman, a New York lawyer who was one of Bill Clinton's top political benefactors, thanked Franks for leading the charge and restoring faith in the military.
"There is just something about the uniform," Edelman told the black-tie audience surrounded by military honor guards. "There is something about the discipline. There is something about the notion of duty, honor, and country, which reminds people that America does stand for freedom and decency."
Indeed, the pride of young soldiers is what pleases Franks most, he told the popular New York radio show "Batchelor and Alexander" before accepting the Intrepid Freedom Award.
"In times past, if you were a young person in uniform and you came to New York, one of the first things you wanted to do is get into your civies because you could sort of be anonymous and go have fun. Nowadays these youngsters want to be in uniform."
More than 6,000 Navy sailors are in New York this week for the annual Fleet Week festival, bringing a flotilla of 20 U.S. warships to the city's harbor.
In his Intrepid speech, Franks concisely summed up what drives his command's newfound purpose, on the ship that served as an emergency safe house for more than 700 FBI investigators in the first days after 911.
"On that day America looked into the face of evil," Franks told the wealthy donors to the Intrepid museum. "But since that time, the 11th of September, there is a new face. It's not a face of evil. It is a face of resolve."
Dressed in the medal-laden frills of full military dress, Franks vowed ultimate victory in the war on terrorism without a hint of the fatalist warnings his civilian leaders recently issued:
"People ask from time to time, so how long will this effort endure? How long will this fight take?
I think it will take as long as it takes. I know we'll work as long as it takes. I believe that you will support us as long as it takes.
And those of us who wear the uniform will wear the face of resolve, and oh by the way, probably with just a little bit of attitude.
This face of resolve, I assure you, will stand in the face of evil."
By Craig Crawford