President Praises Troops During July 4 Event at White House

WASHINGTON, July 4, 2011 — Mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers attend­ing the White House Inde­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion rep­re­sent the lat­est in a long line of heroes who have served the Unit­ed States with hon­or and sac­ri­ficed much to pro­tect the free­doms all Amer­i­cans enjoy, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said here today.

Independence Day
Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, accom­pa­nied by First Lady Michelle, speaks to troops and fam­i­ly mem­bers at an Inde­pen­dence Day event at the White House, July 4, 2011.
DOD screen grab
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“I can­not think of any­body I would rather cel­e­brate with than all of you,” the pres­i­dent said, “the men and women of our mil­i­tary and our extra­or­di­nary mil­i­tary fam­i­lies.”

Oba­ma and his wife and chil­dren host­ed a tra­di­tion­al Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tion for mem­bers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. About 1,200 ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies attend­ed the White House event, which includ­ed a bar­beque, a USO show fea­tur­ing Train and Amos Lee and a view­ing of the nation­al cap­i­tal fire­works.

“After all that you do for our coun­try every day, we want­ed to give you a chance to get out of uni­form, relax a lit­tle bit and have some fun,” Oba­ma told the troops. “But of course it’s also a time for us to reflect on the mean­ing of Amer­i­ca.”

The small band of patri­ots who signed the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence might be sur­prised to see their lega­cy, Oba­ma said, includ­ing a nation that’s led rev­o­lu­tions in com­merce, sent peo­ple to the moon, lift­ed up the poor, cured the sick, fought for democ­ra­cy and served as a bea­con of hope around the world.

“All this could only hap­pen because of our founders’ cen­tral faith that through democ­ra­cy and indi­vid­ual rights ordi­nary peo­ple have it with­in their means to forge a nation that’s more just and more equal and more free,” Oba­ma said.

Every ser­vice mem­ber is heir to that lega­cy, the pres­i­dent added, intro­duc­ing five heroes, one from each ser­vice.

While on patrol in Iraq, Army Sgt. 1st Class Justin Gang’s con­voy was struck by a road­side bomb and fell under ene­my fire, Oba­ma said.

“Even after being wound­ed by shrap­nel him­self, he helped secure the scene and evac­u­ate his wound­ed com­rades to safe­ty and today we hon­or his extra­or­di­nary courage,” he added.

Nige­ria-born Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Obi Nwag­wu, a hos­pi­tal corps­man, became an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen and vol­un­teered to serve in the U.S. mil­i­tary.

“As an ortho­pe­dic tech­ni­cian, he helps our wound­ed war­riors regain their strength and resume their lives back home,” Oba­ma said. “Today we hon­or his incred­i­ble ded­i­ca­tion.”

Whether it’s part­ner­ing with the Iraqi army or mak­ing sure our troops have shel­ter in some of the tough­est places on the plan­et, Oba­ma said, Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Heather Adkins “knows how to get things done and today we hon­or her tire­less devo­tion.”

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert “Kei­th” Kester­son rushed through ene­my fire to free a fel­low Marine trapped inside a burn­ing vehi­cle, the pres­i­dent said.

“After untan­gling the Marine’s equip­ment, he extin­guished the flames and pulled him to safe­ty, and today we hon­or his unyield­ing loy­al­ty,” Oba­ma added.

Less than 24 hours after the dev­as­tat­ing 2010 earth­quake in Haiti, the pres­i­dent said, Coast Guard Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer Mar­lene Rik­lon was on the scene help­ing direct aid and save lives in the midst of chaos.

Today, Oba­ma said, “we hon­or her incred­i­ble ded­i­ca­tion.”

These patri­ots and their fel­low ser­vice mem­bers, the pres­i­dent said, are the rea­son why Amer­i­ca and its armed forces “remain the great­est force for peace and secu­ri­ty that the world has ever known.”

Togeth­er, he added, “you’re stand­ing with all of those through­out the world who are reach­ing for the same free­doms and the same lib­er­ties that we cel­e­brate today.”

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

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