Obama Salutes Servicemembers' Duty, Sacrifices
(October 28, 2009)
President Barack Obama shakes hands with sailors, Marines and other servicemembers after delivering remarks during a rally held on board Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 26, 2009. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Anthony C. Casullo
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2009 – President Barack Obama today thanked U.S. military
members for their service and sacrifice to the nation during his visit to a
Florida Navy base.
America has the best military in the world, “because we have the finest
personnel in the world,” Obama told servicemembers at Naval Air Station
“You are the best-trained, the best-prepared, the best-led force in history,”
Obama said. “Our people are our most precious resource.”
Obama then cited the 11 U.S. servicemembers and three U.S.
civilians who perished today in Afghanistan as a result of two separate
“Fourteen Americans gave their lives. And our prayers are with these
servicemembers, their civilian colleagues and the families who loved them,”
Obama said. |
Relatives and friends of the departed may find some comfort, Obama said, in
knowing that their loved ones died to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a
safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists and their extremist allies. Those who
perished in the helicopter crashes in Afghanistan “gave their lives to protect
ours,” said the president added.
Obama told the military members that he is humbled by their service to the
“The American people thank you for your service,” he said. “We honor you for
your sacrifices. And just as you have fulfilled your responsibilities to your
nation, your nation will fulfill its responsibilities to you.”
Of all the presidential privileges and responsibilities, Obama said, his highest
honor is to serve as commander in chief of the U.S. military. “You inspire me,”
he said. “And I'm here today to deliver a simple message – a message of thanks
to you and your families.”
Earlier today, Obama conducted a sixth White House meeting with his national
security advisors to discuss the way ahead in Afghanistan. As deliberations
continue, the president emphasized in Jacksonville, he will never rush the
decision to send America's servicemembers into harm's way.
“I won't risk your lives unless it's absolutely necessary,” Obama told
servicemembers. “And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt,
because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission and the defined goals as
well as the equipment and support that you need to get the job done.”
Obama pledged that U.S. servicemembers always would be fully supported back
home, noting he will soon sign a $680.2 billion defense authorization bill for
fiscal 2010 that contains added funding for the military.
Obama also vowed to take care of U.S. servicemembers' families, noting First
Lady Michelle Obama has been visiting bases across the country to connect with
military families. Recent actions, the president said, have increased military
pay and education benefits and improved child care and hospital facilities as
part of efforts to improve quality of life for servicemembers and military
He also cited initiatives designed to reduce military families' stress while
loved ones are deployed and efforts that bolster medical care for wounded
“We're improving care for our wounded warriors, especially those with
post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries,” Obama said.
And to take better care of the nation's veterans, Obama said, the Department of
Veterans Affairs budget is being increased by the highest percentage in more
than 30 years. Servicemembers, their families and veterans deserve these
initiatives and more, the president said, because of their service to the
“You have always taken care of America; America must take care of you, always,”
Obama told servicemembers.
Obama recalled Jacksonville's recent welcome home for previously missing Navy
aviator Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, whose remains were discovered in August in
Iraq and returned to his family for burial. Speicher was shot down over Iraq in
1991 during the Persian Gulf War.
As Speicher's flag-draped casket lay in repose at the naval base's chapel before
his burial, Jacksonville's military members and civilians “gave Scott back to
the city he loved,” Obama said.
“That's what you do,” he added, “not only for Scott, but for all the fallen
warriors you bring home.”
While in Jacksonville, Obama also met with 11 sailors and Marines noted for
their leadership, high achievement and excellence during performance of their
Article and photo by Gerry J.
American Forces Press Service
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