President Obama Participates in the Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony

President Obama Participates in the Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony


(applause) The President:
Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, please be seated. Well, good afternoon. Turns out, these are easier
when you’re talking about someone else. (laughter) At moments like this, I
think of all the times I’ve stood before our men
and women in uniform. Commissioning our newest
officers, presiding over promotions, presenting the
Commander-in Chief’s Trophy to the best football
team in the military. I will let you
argue over that one. (laughter) I have never taken sides. Secretary Carter, I could
not be more grateful for your gracious words, but
more importantly, for your outstanding leadership,
across, as you noted, more than three decades and
nearly all of my presidency. You have always given me,
Ash, your best strategic counsel. You’ve made sure that we
were investing in innovation for the long term and a
strong force for the future. As a physicist, Ash is also
one of the few people who actually understands how our
defense systems work and I know that our troops and
their families are immensely grateful for the compassion
that you and Stephanie have shown them over the years. So, to you and your family,
on behalf of all of us, thank you for your
outstanding service. (applause) General Dunford, we’ve
relied on you as Commandant of the Marine Corps, as our
commander in Afghanistan, and now, as our nation’s
highest-ranking military officer. I thank you, and General
Selva, and the entire Joint Chiefs for the unvarnished
military advice that you’ve always provided to me, for
your dedication, for your professionalism,
for your integrity. Because of you, because of
this team, our Armed Forces are more integrated and
better prepared across domains. A truly Joint Force. Which is why, as a White Sox
fan, I can overlook the fact that you love the Red Sox. (laughter) Moreover, on a personal
note, outside of your professional qualities, you
are a good man, and I am grateful to have
worked with you. And thank Ellyn for
allowing you to do this. (applause) To members of Congress; Vice
President Biden — who, along with Jill, has known
the love, and the pride, and the sacrifice of
a military family. To Deputy Secretary Work,
service secretaries, distinguished guests,
dedicated civilians from across the Defense
Department, my national security team — most of
all, our men and women in uniform. I thank you for this honor
and for the warmth and respect that you’ve always
shown me, the support that you’ve shown Michelle and
our daughters during these past eight years. And so, although I recognize
that the formalities require me listening to praise
directed in large part to me, I want to
turn the tables. I am still
Commander-in-Chief, so I get to do what I want to do,
and I want to thank you. Of all the privileges of
this office, and there are many, I will miss Air Force
One, I will miss Marine One — (laughter) — but I can stand before
you today and say that there has been no greater
privilege, and no greater honor, than serving as the
Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military in the
history of the world. (applause) When I took office, I noted
that Presidents and those of you in uniform swear a
similar oath to protect and defend this country and
the Constitution that we cherish. By stepping forward and
volunteering, by raising your right hand and taking
that oath, each of you made a solemn pledge. You committed yourself to
a life of service and of sacrifice. And I, in turn, made a
promise to you, which, to the best of my abilities,
I’ve tried to uphold every single day since — that I
would only send you into harm’s way when it is
absolutely necessary, with the strategy, the
well-defined goals, with the equipment and the support
that you needed to get the job done. Because that’s what you
rightfully expect and that is what you
rightfully deserve. I made that pledge at a time
when less than one percent of Americans
wear the uniform. Fewer Americans know someone
who serves and as a result, a lot of Americans don’t see
the sacrifices you make on our behalf, but as
Commander-in-Chief, I do. I’ve seen it when I look
into the eyes of young cadets, knowing that my
decisions could very well send them into harm’s way. I’ve seen it when I’ve
visited the field, in Bagram and Baghdad, far from your
families, risking your lives so that we can live ours
safely and in freedom. And so, you’ve inspired me,
and I have been humbled by you consistently and I want
every American to know what I know. Through year after year
after year of continuous military operations, you
have earned your place among the greatest generations. The list of accomplishments
that Joe and Ash so generously mentioned,
they’re because of you. It’s what I tell my staff
— I’m the front man, but you’re the ones
doing the work. Because of you, our
alliances are stronger, from Europe to the Asia Pacific. Because of you, we surged in
Afghanistan, trained Afghan forces to defend their
country, while bringing most of our troops home. Today, our forces serve
there on a more limited mission because we
must never again allow Afghanistan to be used for
a safe haven in attacks against our nation. It’s because of you,
particularly our remarkable Special Forces, that the
core al Qaeda leadership that attacked us on
9/11 has been decimated. Countless terrorist leaders,
including Osama bin Laden, are gone. From South Asia to Africa,
we have forged partnerships to go after terrorists
that threaten us. Because of you, we are
leading the global coalition against ISIL. These terrorists have
lost about half of their territory. They are losing
their leaders. Towns and cities
are being liberated. And I have no doubt this
barbaric terrorist group will be destroyed
because of you. You’ve shown that when it
comes to fighting terrorism, we can be strong
and we can be smart. Not by letting our forces
get dragged into sectarian conflicts and civil wars,
but with smart, sustainable, principled partnerships. That’s how we’ve brought
most of our troops home — from nearly 180,000 troops
in Iraq and Afghanistan down to 15,000 today. That’s how, even as we’ve
suffered terrible attacks here at home, from Boston
to Orlando, no foreign terrorist organization has
successfully planned and executed an attack on our
homeland these past eight years. Because of you, the world
has seen the awesome reach of American Armed Forces. In some of the first few
weeks of my job, when Somali pirates took Captain
Phillips; later on, when they kidnapped Jessica
Buchanan, it was you that went in and you that risked
everything and you that brought these Americans
home to their families. The world has seen
your compassion. The help you deliver in
times of crisis, from an earthquake in Haiti to
the tsunami in Japan. Think of Ebola and the
countless lives this Armed Forces saved in West Africa. It was you that set up the
architecture and set the example for the
world’s response. One woman in West Africa
said, “We thanked God first and then we thanked America
second for caring about us.” That’s the difference you
make — you continue to make — in the lives of
people around the world. As you know well, with
service comes great sacrifice. And after 15 years of war,
our wounded warriors bear the scars — both
seen and unseen. In my visits to their
bedsides and rehab centers, I have been in awe, watching
a wounded warrior grab his walker and pull himself
up and, and through excruciating pain, take a
step, and then another. Or hearing troops describe
how they grappled with post-traumatic stress but
summoned the strength to ask for help. As a military and as a
nation, we have to keep supporting our resilient and
incredibly strong wounded warriors as they learn to
walk and run and heal. As they find new ways to
keep serving our nation, they need to know that we
still need your incredible talents. You’ve given so much to
America, and I know you have more to give. And then you have not seen
the depths of true love and true patriotism until you’ve
been to Dover, when our troops receive our fallen
heroes on their final journey home; until you have
grieved with our Gold Star families who’ve given a
piece of their heart to our nation — a son or a
daughter, a father or mother, a husband or wife,
a brother or a sister. Every one a patriot. Every single one of these
American families deserves the everlasting gratitude
and support of our entire nation. Today, after two major
ground wars, our Armed Forces have drawn down, and
that is natural and it is necessary. And after reckless budget
cuts of sequester, we need to keep improving the
readiness, and the training, and modernizing our forces. So, let me take this
opportunity, while I still have it, to appeal to our
friends from Congress who are here. We cannot go back
to sequestration. There is a responsible way
forward — investing in America’s strengths, our
national security and our economic security. Investing in the reform and
the equipment and support that our troops need,
including the pay and the benefits, and the quality of
life, and the education and the jobs that our troops and
our veterans and all of your families deserve. But make no mistake, even
with the challenges of recent years — and there
have been challenges– our allies and adversaries
alike understand America’s military remains, by far,
the most capable fighting force on the face
of the Earth. Our Army, tested by years of
combat, is the best-trained and best-equipped land
force on the planet. Our Navy is the largest and
most lethal in the world, on track to surpass 300 ships. Our Air Force, with its
precision and reach, is unmatched. Our Marine Corps is
the world’s only truly expeditionary force. Our Coast Guard is the
finest in the world. And we’re also the best
because this military has come to welcome the talents
of more of our fellow Americans. Service members can now
serve the country they love without hiding who they
are or who they love. All combat positions in our
military are now open to women. And Joe Biden and I know
that women are at least as strong as men. We’re stronger for it. It’s one of the reasons that
our military stands apart as the most respected
institution in our nation by a mile. The American people — (applause) The American people look up
to you and your devotion to duty, and your integrity,
and your sense of honor, and your commitment
to each other. One of my proudest
achievements is that I have been able to, I think,
communicate through the constant partisan haze,
along with so many others, how special this institution
is, and the esteem in which our military is held, has
held steady and constant and high throughout
my presidency. And I’m very
grateful for that. Because you remind us that
we are united as one team. At times of division, you’ve
shown what it means to pull together. So, my days as your
Commander-in-Chief are coming to an end, and as I
reflect on the challenges we have faced together and on
those to come, I believe that one of the greatest
tasks before our Armed Forces is to retain the high
confidence that the American people rightly place in you. This is a responsibility not
simply for those of you in uniform, but for
those who lead you. It’s the responsibility
of our entire nation. And so, we are called to
remember core principles. That we must never hesitate
to act when necessary to defend our nation, but we
must also never rush into war because sending you into
harm’s way should be a last, and not first, resort. It should be compelled by
the needs of our security and not our politics. We need to remember that
we must not give in to the false illusion of
isolationism, because in this dangerous time, oceans
alone will not protect us, and the world still seeks
and needs our leadership as the one indispensable
nation. We have to remember that our
military has to be prepared for the full spectrum of
threats, conventional and unconventional, from 20th
century-style aggression to 21st century-style
cyber threats. And when we do go to war, we
have to hold ourselves to high standards and do
everything in our power to prevent the loss of innocent
life, because that’s what we stand for. That’s what we
should stand for. We have to remember that as
we meet the threats of our time, we cannot sacrifice
our values or our way of life — the rule of law and
openness and tolerance that defines us as Americans. That is our greatest
strength and makes us a beacon to the world. We cannot sacrifice the very
freedoms that we’re fighting for. And finally, in our
democracy, the continued strength of our
all-volunteer force also rests on something else — a
strong bond of respect and trust between those in
uniform and the citizens that you protect and defend. At a time when too few
Americans truly understand the realities or sacrifices
of military service, at a time when many political
leaders have not served, if some in the military begin
to feel as though somehow, they are apart from the
larger society they serve those bonds can fray. As every generation learns
anew, freedom is not free. And so, while less than one
percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, 100
percent of Americans can do their parts — at the very
least, to support you and your families. Everybody can do something
— every business, every profession, every school,
every community, every state — to reach out and to give
back, and to let you know that we care, to help make
the lives of our troops and your families just
a little bit easier. Everybody can do something. And that’s why Michelle and
Jill Biden have mobilized more Americans to honor
and support you and your families through
Joining Forces. And that’s why, even after
we leave the White House, Michelle and I intend to
keep on looking for ways to help rally more of our
fellow citizens to be there for you, just like you’ve
always been there for us. So, we can’t say it enough
and we can’t show it enough. Thank you for
your patriotism. Thank you for your
professionalism. Thank you for your character
in representing the very best of the American spirit. Our nation endures — we
live free under the red, white and blue because
of patriots like you. It has been a privilege of a
lifetime to serve with you. I have learned
much from you. I’m a better man having
worked with you. I’m confident that the
United States and our Armed Forces will remain the
greatest force for freedom and security that the
world has ever known. God bless you and your
families and God bless the United States of America. (applause)

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