THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, John, for your outstanding service, and your friendship is greatly appreciated. I want to thank my two outstanding Secretaries who are behind me — Bob Gates, who is doing just an extraordinary job over at the Pentagon, and General Shinseki, now Secretary Shinseki, who has served our country with extraordinary valor.
I also want to acknowledge all the wounded warriors and veterans and all those who care for them who are here today. You make us very, very proud.
To the VSO and MSO leaders who work hard on behalf of those who serve this nation, thank you for your advocacy and your hard work. As I look out in the audience, especially seeing these folks in their uniforms, I am reminded of the fact that we have the best fighting force in world history, and the reason we do is because of all of you. And so I’m very grateful for what you’ve done to protect and serve this country.
It is good to be back. We’ve had a productive week working to advance America’s interests around the world. We worked to renew our alliances to enhance our common security. We collaborated with other nations to take steps towards rebuilding the global economy, which will revitalize our own.
And before coming home, I stopped to visit with our men and women who are serving bravely in Iraq. First and foremost, I wanted to say “thank you” to them on behalf of a grateful nation. They’ve faced extraordinary challenges, and they have performed brilliantly in every mission that’s been given to them. They have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country, and that is a great gift.
You know, we often talk about ideals like sacrifice and honor and duty. But these men and women, like the men and women who are here, embody it. They have made sacrifices many of us cannot begin to imagine.
We’re talking about men like Specialist Jake Altman and Sergeant Nathan Dewitt, two of the soldiers who I had the honor to meet when I was in Baghdad. In 2007, as Specialist Altman was clearing mines so that other soldiers might travel in safety, he lost his hand when an IED struck his vehicle. And at Walter Reed, he asked to relearn the skills necessary to perform his duties with a prosthetic so that he could rejoin his old battalion. Sergeant Dewitt was severely injured in an attack last September, but he refused to let his injuries stop him from giving first aid to his wounded comrades. Today, they’re both back alongside their fellow soldiers in their old units.