Obama Thanks Servicemembers for Iraq War Contributions

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma trav­eled today to Fort Bliss, Texas, to pay trib­ute to the post’s ser­vice­mem­bers, whose con­tri­bu­tions and those of their com­rades made pos­si­ble tomorrow’s mile­stone mark­ing the offi­cial end of com­bat oper­a­tions in Iraq.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions, on a job well done,” Oba­ma told about 130 1st Armored Divi­sion sol­diers, accom­pa­nied their spous­es, who’d recent­ly returned from Iraq as they gath­ered in a post din­ing facil­i­ty.

“There has not been a sin­gle mis­sion that has been assigned to all of you in which you have not per­formed with gal­lantry, with courage, with excel­lence,” the pres­i­dent said. “That is some­thing the entire coun­try under­stands.”

Thanks to these efforts, he said, “Iraq has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a bet­ter future for itself and Amer­i­ca is more secure.”

Oba­ma told the troops his White House address to the nation tonight will under­score that as Oper­a­tion New Dawn begins tomor­row, “our task in Iraq is not yet com­plet­ed.”

“Our com­bat phase is over,” he said, “But we’ve worked too hard to neglect the con­tin­u­ing work that has to be done” by civil­ians as well as mil­i­tary tran­si­tion­al forces.

“The work that con­tin­ues is absolute­ly crit­i­cal, pro­vid­ing train­ing and assis­tance to Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, because there’s still vio­lence in Iraq and they’re still learn­ing how to secure their coun­try the way they need to,” Oba­ma said. “They’ve made enor­mous strides, thanks to the train­ing that they’ve already received. But there’s still more work to do there.”

U.S. forces also will con­tin­ue to con­duct joint coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions with their Iraqi coun­ter­parts, he not­ed.

“But the bot­tom line is that our com­bat phase is now over, we are in tran­si­tion, and that could not have been accom­plished had it not been for the men and women here at Fort Bliss and across the coun­try,” Oba­ma said.

Polit­i­cal dis­agree­ments and debate aside, all Amer­i­cans agree that “we have the finest fight­ing force in the his­to­ry of the world,” the pres­i­dent said, draw­ing loud cheers from his audi­ence.

“And the rea­son we have that it is that the men and women in uni­form, in every branch of ser­vice, who make so many sac­ri­fices. And their fam­i­lies make those sac­ri­fices beside them,” the pres­i­dent said.

Oba­ma rec­og­nized that sac­ri­fice today when he met with Gold Star fam­i­lies at Fort Bliss, includ­ing a new moth­er who had just lost her hus­band in com­bat. Yes­ter­day, he vis­it­ed wound­ed war­riors at Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where he award­ed 11 Pur­ple Heart Medals.

As the U.S. mis­sion tran­si­tions in Iraq, Oba­ma told the Fort Bliss sol­diers he will insist that the coun­try “serve you and your fam­i­lies as well as you’ve served us,” with pro­grams and ser­vices to sup­port their needs.

He cit­ed increased sup­port for vet­er­ans, bet­ter care for wound­ed war­riors, includ­ing spe­cial­ized ser­vices for those suf­fer­ing from trau­mat­ic brain injuries or post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der, and a Post 9/11 GI Bill that pro­vides enhanced edu­ca­tion­al ben­e­fits for troops as well as their fam­i­lies.

“I just want to say thank you on behalf of the coun­try, because with­out you, we could­n’t enjoy the free­doms and the secu­ri­ty that are pre­cious,” Oba­ma said. “And all of you rep­re­sent that long line of heroes that have served us so well gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion.”

Oba­ma closed his com­ments say­ing he’d like to cir­cu­late around the room to shake the sol­diers’ hands to thank them for “a job well done” and to ensure they know they are “wel­come home with open arms from every cor­ner of this coun­try.”

“Peo­ple could not be proud­er of you — and we are grate­ful,” he said.

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

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