By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2011 – The American military exhibits the best the country has to offer, President Barack Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday, 17 Dec. 2011.
The last U.S. service members are leaving Iraq after almost nine years of combat. They leave a country and citizenry that has a chance to chart its own course in a tough neighborhood.
More than 1.5 million Americans served in Iraq and tens of thousands have been wounded. “Military families have sacrificed greatly — none more so than the families of those nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice,” the president said. “All of them — our troops, veterans and their families — will always have the thanks of a grateful nation.”
A safe and stable Iraq with a democratically elected government is an incredible achievement, and it was made possible through the hard work and sacrifices of the American military.
And that military has lessons for the American people. Surveys show the military is the most respected institution in America. “[Service members] don’t see themselves or each other as Democrats first or Republicans first,” Obama said. “They see themselves as Americans first.
“For all our differences and disagreements, they remind us that we are all a part of something bigger; that we are one nation and one people,” the president continued. “And for all our challenges, they remind us that there is nothing we can’t do when we stick together.”
There are 2.2 million Americans in uniform today. Some will remain in the military to serve, while many others will leave and become veterans. Those men and women will continue to serve in their communities.
“After years of rebuilding Iraq, it is time to enlist our veterans and all our people in the work of rebuilding America,” Obama said.
The generation that defeated fascism came home to build the largest middle class in history. They developed computers, built the interstate highway system, faced down communism and put a man on the moon. The 9/11 generation of veterans “is armed with the skills, discipline and leadership to attack the defining challenge of our time: rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, where anyone can make it if they try,” the president said.
Obama called on elected representatives to emulate the military’s spirit, determination and sacrifice. “This cannot be a country where division and discord stand in the way of our progress,” he said. “This is a moment where we must come together to ensure that every American has the chance to work for a decent living, own their own home, send their kids to college and secure a decent retirement.
“This is a moment for us to build a country that lives up to the ideals that so many of our bravest Americans have fought and even died for. That is our highest obligation as citizens. That is the welcome home that our troops deserve.”