Obama: Servicemembers Prove America’s Best Days Lie Ahead

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2010 — The brav­ery, resolve, exper­tise and com­mit­ment of Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers proves that America’s best days lie ahead, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan today.
Oba­ma thanked Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians for their sac­ri­fices dur­ing a vis­it to the head­quar­ters of Region­al Com­mand East. The com­mand, built around the U.S. Army’s 101st Air­borne Divi­sion, is respon­si­ble for some of the tough­est ter­ri­to­ry in Afghanistan.

Oba­ma arrived at Bagram and met with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the com­man­der of NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, and U.S. Ambas­sador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eiken­ber­ry. The pres­i­dent vis­it­ed the Bagram hos­pi­tal and award­ed five Pur­ple Heart medals to wound­ed ser­vice­mem­bers there. He then met with a pla­toon of 101st Air­borne troop­ers who lost six sol­diers Nov. 29 when an Afghan Bor­der Police trainee opened fire on them. 

Oba­ma spoke to more than 3,500 ser­vice­mem­bers in a hangar at the base. He thanked them for their ser­vice and said they are part of an unbro­ken line of Amer­i­cans “who have giv­en up your com­fort, your ease, your con­ve­nience, for America’s security.” 

The pres­i­dent traced the sac­ri­fices of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans who’d also found them­selves serv­ing in war dur­ing a sea­son of peace. “They did it for the same rea­son that all of you do,” Oba­ma said. “Because the free­dom and the lib­er­ty that we trea­sure, that’s not sim­ply a birthright. It has to be earned by the sac­ri­fices of gen­er­a­tions — gen­er­a­tions of patri­ots, men and women, who step for­ward and say, ‘Send me.’ ” 

A year ago, the pres­i­dent ordered a surge of 30,000 more Amer­i­can troops into Afghanistan. Some 95,000 U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers and thou­sands of Amer­i­can civil­ians now serve in Afghanistan. 

“Thanks to your ser­vice, we are mak­ing impor­tant progress,” the pres­i­dent said. “You are pro­tect­ing your coun­try. You are achiev­ing your objec­tives. You will suc­ceed in your mission.” 

The NATO effort has halt­ed the Taliban’s momen­tum in Afghanistan, the pres­i­dent said, as NATO and Afghan gov­ern­ment forces have reclaimed and held large swaths of the nation. “You’re going on the offense, tired of play­ing defense, tar­get­ing their lead­ers, push­ing them out of their strong­holds,” he said. 

Oba­ma told the ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians they can be proud that because of their efforts and sac­ri­fices, Afghanistan today has a more hope­ful future. Progress is slow, the pres­i­dent acknowl­edged, and has come at a high price. 

“So many of you have stood before the solemn bat­tle cross -– the dis­play of boots, a rifle, a hel­met -– and said good­bye to a fall­en com­rade,” Oba­ma said. “This year alone, near­ly a hun­dred mem­bers of the 101st have giv­en their last full mea­sure of devo­tion. There are few days when I don’t sign a let­ter to a mil­i­tary fam­i­ly express­ing our nation’s grat­i­tude and grief at their pro­found sacrifice.” 

Oba­ma said the ser­vice­mem­bers in America’s mil­i­tary come from every con­ceiv­able back­ground and unite to serve a greater cause. “Through your ser­vice, you demon­strate the con­tent of the Amer­i­can char­ac­ter,” he said. “Some peo­ple ask whether America’s best days lie ahead or whether our great­ness stretch­es back behind us in the sto­ries of those who’ve gone before. 

“When I look out at all of you, I know the answer to that. You give me hope,” he con­tin­ued. “You give me inspi­ra­tion. Your resolve shows that Amer­i­cans will nev­er suc­cumb to fear. Your self­less ser­vice shows who we are, who we always will be, unit­ed as one peo­ple and unit­ed as one nation, for you embody and stand up for the val­ues that make us what we are as a people.” 

He said the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca is not defined by bor­ders, but by a com­mon creed elo­quent­ly stat­ed in the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence: “We hold these truths to be self-evi­dent: that all men are cre­at­ed equal, that we are endowed by our cre­ator with cer­tain inalien­able rights, that among these are the right to life and lib­er­ty and the pur­suit of happiness.” 

That creed, Oba­ma told the ser­vice­mem­bers, is what Amer­i­cans have fought for through his­to­ry and are fight­ing for in Afghanistan. 

“And that belief is more pow­er­ful than any adver­sary,” he said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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