Rich Galen

The hall in which the ceremony took place was crowded with many of the men and women who were there in those first days. They talked about things like Operation Liberty Shield that was deemed necessary to erect on the eve of our entry into Iraq.

They talked about putting together the plan to protect bridges and tunnels

"The Department of Transportation said they'd do it; we said 'That's our job, now'."

They talked about stockpiling emergency supplies of all types around the country.

"HHS said they'd coordinate that effort; we said, 'We do that, now'."

And so on.

The color code was raised to Orange, the Shield was established, and nothing - and no one - slipped through.

The systems - now far more sophisticated - that were set up by Tom Ridge and those early DHS employees protected us until April 15, 2013 when two brothers slipped through the system and lit off their bombs in Boston.

So, the portrait was unveiled at a ceremony yesterday. Ridge was reported to have said that he would be just as happy if they threw a happy hour somewhere and invited all the DHS alums to see it there.

Typical of Tom Ridge.

Here's another.

Last year when you helped me raise money to build an accessible home in Marietta, Ohio for PFC Kyle Hockenberry (who lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan), almost as I was walking on stage to present an oversized check to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation on your behalf, I got a call from Gov. Ridge's office.

He made the last donation of our little effort and all he wanted in return, was for me to tell PFC Hockenberry on his behalf, "Thanks for your service."

Back at you, SSGT Ridge.

Thank you for your service.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to Tom Ridge's bio, to Operation Liberty Shield, and to the official history of DHS.

Also the Department-supplied photo of Tom Ridge's official portrait.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at