President Obama and Vice President Biden Visit Troops at Fort Campbell
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President Obama and Vice President Biden Visit Troops at Fort Campbell

Vice President Biden:
Hey, it’s good to be
back with you all. I’ll tell you what. I want to thank General Colt
for accompanying me up here. I get the honor of
introducing the General. I was back here
on February 11th, to welcome home members of the
3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan — 155 of you got
off that plane in the middle of the night, and the only thing
that was more exciting than seeing you getting off is
watching your families watch you all get off. So it’s an honor to
be back here so soon. I know many of you have just
gotten home in the past few weeks — so welcome home. And I know from experience that
your families want more than anything to spend time with you. And so, every time I show up
at a welcome home ceremony, I’m always worried about
getting in the way. Because I remember when my son
came back home from Iraq after a year, there were all
these ceremonies. And I kept saying, hell, man,
stop, I want to see my kid. (laughter) So, anyway, I get it. So let me just say how much
gratitude the President and I have, and all Americans
do, for you all. You guys have been in the
fight from the beginning. And the risk you’ve taken, the
incredible sacrifices you’ve made, the comrades you’ve lost,
the losses you’ve personally endured — you’ve been in some
of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. I’ve been there a
number of times, back up in those damn mountains. I’d get a helicopter
to go down 9,800 feet, and all I got on is a vest —
a bulletproof vest and a helmet and I’m out of breath climbing
up about 40 clicks — 40 feet. And you guys are up there, 60 to
80-pound packs running around. God, you’re amazing. You just are amazing. I’m in awe of the job you
do, in awe of the job you do. (applause) As I said back in February,
I want to also thank your families. They made sacrifices as well,
those intangible sacrifices — those missed births and
those missed birthdays, those missed graduations,
those missed — an occasional funeral. Perhaps more than anything
else, just being missed, just not having you home. The famous poet — there was
a famous poet I like to quote, John Milton, who said,
“They also serve who only stand and wait.” Your families serve as well. And the rest of America owes
your families a debt of gratitude as well. And so, to all the families
that are listening — (applause) — I want to say their service
is as real as yours and it’s as appreciated. To the soldiers here, you are
the most capable warriors. Let me say this without
any fear of contradiction, you’re the most capable warriors
in the history of the world. There has never, never, never,
never been a fighting force as capable as you are. It’s my job today and my honor
to talk a little bit about the man that I get to
work with every day. We’ve just got to spend time
with the assaulters who got bin Laden. (applause) By the way, I
shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to
tell you anyway — the President is going to
be mad I’m taking so long — (laughter) — but today was
“Grandfather’s Day,” so I went by earlier this
morning before I came out here to my granddaughter’s
little spring play. And after it’s all
over she said, “Pop, come back to my
classroom with me.” I said, “I can’t, honey.” She said, “Are you going
someplace on Air Force Two?” I said, “Yeah, I am, babe.” She said, “Where are you going?” I said, going to —
true story — I said, “I’m going to Fort Campbell.” I said, “We’re going to see the
guys out there who got Osama bin Laden.” Absolutely true story. She said, “Pop!” and then she
grabbed a little friend of hers and she said, “My Pop is
going out to see the whales.” (laughter) Not the SEALs, the whales. (laughter) Because if they’re that good
they got to be big, man. They got to be big. (laughter) Well, you guys are the
gorillas, I’ll tell you. I want to tell you,
look, I’ve watched — I’ve been around a while
with eight Presidents, so I’ve watched Presidents
make some difficult decisions. They’ve all had to make
difficult decisions. But sitting in every meeting
getting ready and planning for this mission and assault, for
the mission to get bin Laden, I saw something extraordinary. I saw a President who
was told the odds — told the odds weren’t but much
more than 50/50 that he’d be there and we could do this,
but they were considerably less than 100%. And I, along with the all the
rest of his national security team and Secretary
of Defense, stayed — everyone else, we sat around
there and he asked our advice and we gave him our advice, and
we told him told him a little this and that. And finally, he just looked
at all of us and said, I got faith in the — I
got faith in these guys. He walked off on his own
without anybody giving him any guarantees at all
and he decided — because he believed
in not only the SEALs, but believes in all of you. He has absolute total
faith in all of you. And he made that determination,
and it was an amazing thing to watch. But it was because he had
the absolute confidence that you were there. And so he decided, when
he got into office, because of the fight you all
were in from the beginning, that the number one priority
was to get Osama bin Laden. And he knew the risks, he knew
there were significant risks, and more importantly, special
operations risks to the people who were risking their
lives getting there. But he didn’t hesitate,
nor did your guys. Bob Gates said
something interesting. I’ve known Bob for a long time. He said, it was one of the
gutsiest decisions I’ve ever seen made and one of
the gutsiest raids. This is going to go down
in history, what happened. This is going to
go down in history. And here to introduce
your Commander-in-Chief, the guy that I’m
proud to serve with, is one of the country’s
leading warriors himself, Deputy Commanding General of
the 10th Airborne Division, General Jeffrey Colt. Ladies and gentlemen,
General Colt. (applause) General Colt:
Thank you, sir. I can only try to tell you today
just how proud of you that this Division and this
local community are. But more importantly, today,
you’re going to get to hear from the Commander-in-Chief just how
appreciative he is of all of your service and
your sacrifices. Please join me in this great
privilege of welcoming the President of the United
States, Barack Obama. (cheering and applause) President Obama:
Hello, Fort Campbell! (cheering and applause) 101st Airborne Division-Air
Assault, hello! (cheering) General Colt, thank you for
that great introduction — it was great because
it was brief. (laughter) More importantly, thank you for
the extraordinary leadership that you’ve shown here at
one of the largest Army bases in America. (cheering and applause) And let me just say, I
make a lot of decisions; one of the earliest and best
decisions I made was choosing one of the finest Vice
Presidents in our history — Joe Biden, right here. (cheering and applause) Chaplain Miller, thank you
for the beautiful invocation. I want to thank General Colt
for welcoming me here today, along with your great Command
Sergeant Major, Wayne St. Louis. (cheering and applause) The Quartet and
101st Division Band. (cheering and applause) All these troopers behind
me — you look great. (cheering and applause) You noticed they
kind of hesitated. (laughter) We got a lot of
folks in the house. We’ve got military police
and medical personnel. We’ve got the Green Berets of
the 5th Special Forces Group. I think we’ve got a
few Air Force here. Ohh — (laughter) Well, we thought we did. There they go — okay. Come on. And, of course, the
legendary Screaming Eagles. (cheering and applause) And although they’re
not in the audience, I want to acknowledge the 160th
Special Operations Aviation Regiment — the
Night Stalkers — for their extraordinary service. (cheering and applause) Now, I’ve got to say, some of
you are starting to look a little familiar —
because last December, when we were at Bagram, I was
out there to thank you for your service, especially
during the holidays. And we had a great
rally, a big crowd — it seemed like everybody
was there from the 101st. And since then, I know we’ve
had quite a few homecomings. The Rakkasans. (cheering and applause) Destiny. (cheering and applause) Strike. (cheering and applause) Bastogne. (cheering and applause) And some of the Division
Headquarters — the Gladiators. (cheering and applause) On behalf of a grateful
nation — welcome home. (cheering and applause) Of course, our thoughts and
prayers are with General Campbell, Command
Sergeant Major Schroeder, and all of the Screaming Eagles
and troops that are still risking their lives in theater. And I’m so pleased that Ann
Campbell and Marla Schroeder, and some of the inspiring
military spouses are here. Where are they at? Right over there. (applause) We are grateful to you. God bless you. There they are. Thank you so much. (applause) This happens to be Military
Spouse Appreciation Day. (cheering and applause) And we honor your
service as well. Now, I didn’t come here to
make a really long speech. I know you’re hearing that. (laughter) So I — yeah, it’s hot! (laughter) What I really wanted to do was
come down and shake some hands. I came here for a
simple reason — to say thank you on
behalf of America. This has been an historic week
in the life of our nation. (cheering and applause) Thanks to the incredible skill
and courage of countless individuals — intelligence,
military — over many years, the terrorist leader who struck
our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again. (cheering and applause) Yesterday, I traveled
to New York City, and, along with some of
the 9/11 families, laid a wreath at Ground Zero
in memory of their loved ones. I met with the
first responders — the firefighters,
the police officers, the Port Authority officers —
who lost so many of their own when they rushed into
those burning towers. I promise that our nation will
never forget those we lost that dark September day. And today, here
at Fort Campbell, I had the privilege of meeting
the extraordinary Special Ops folks who honored that promise. It was a chance for me to say —
on behalf of all Americans and people around the world
— “Job well done.” Job well done. (applause) They’re America’s “quiet
professionals” — because success demands secrecy. But I will say this. Like all of you, they could
have chosen a life of ease. But like you, they volunteered. They chose to serve
in a time of war, knowing they could be
sent into harm’s way. They trained for years. They’re battle-hardened. They practiced tirelessly
for this mission. And when I gave the
order, they were ready. Now, in recent days, the whole
world has learned just how ready they were. These Americans deserve credit
for one of the greatest intelligence military operations
in our nation’s history. But so does every person who
wears America’s uniform, the finest military the
world has ever known. (Woah!) And that includes all of
you men and women of 101st. (cheering and applause) You have been on the
frontlines of this fight for nearly 10 years. You were there in
those early days, driving the Taliban from power,
pushing al Qaeda out of its safe havens. Over time, as the insurgency
grew, you went back for, in some cases, a second time,
a third time, a fourth time. When the decision was made to go
into Iraq, you were there, too, making the longest air
assault in history, defeating a vicious insurgency,
ultimately giving Iraqis the chance to secure
their democracy. And you’ve been at the
forefront of our new strategy in Afghanistan. Sending you — more of you —
into harm’s way was the toughest decision that I’ve made
as Commander-in-Chief. I don’t make it lightly. Every time I visit Walter Reed,
every time I visit Bethesda, I’m reminded of
the wages of war. But I made that decision because
I know that this mission was vital to the security of the
nation that we all love. And I know it hasn’t been
easy for you and it hasn’t, certainly, been easy
for your families. Since 9/11, no base has
deployed more often, and few bases have
sacrificed more than you. We see it in our heroic
wounded warriors, fighting every day to recover,
and who deserve the absolute best care in the world. (cheering and applause) We see it in the mental and
emotional toll that’s been taken — in some cases,
some good people, good soldiers who’ve
taken their own lives. So we’re going to keep saying
to anybody who is hurting out there, don’t give up. You’re not alone. Your country needs you. We’re here for you
to keep you strong. And most of all, we see the
price of this war in the 125 soldiers from Fort Campbell
who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice during this
deployment to Afghanistan. And every memorial ceremony —
every “Eagle Remembrance” — is a solemn reminder of
the heavy burdens of war, but also the values of loyalty
and duty and honor that have defined your lives. So here’s what each
of you must know. Because of your service,
because of your sacrifices, we’re making progress
in Afghanistan. In some of the toughest
parts of the country, General Campbell and the 101st
are taking insurgents and their leaders off the battlefield
and helping Afghans reclaim their communities. Across Afghanistan, we’ve
broken the Taliban’s momentum. In key regions, we’ve
seized the momentum, pushing them out of
their strongholds. We’re building the
capacity of Afghans, partnering with communities and
police and security forces, which are growing stronger. And most of all, we’re making
progress in our major goal, our central goal in
Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is disrupting
and dismantling — and we are going to
ultimately defeat al Qaeda. (applause) We have cut off their head and
we will ultimately defeat them. (applause) Even before this
week’s operation, we’ve put al Qaeda’s leadership
under more pressure than at any time since 9/11, on both
sides of the border. So the bottom line is this:
Our strategy is working, and there’s no greater evidence
of that than justice finally being delivered to
Osama bin Laden. (cheering and applause) But I don’t want to fool you. This continues to be
a very tough fight. You know that. But because of this progress,
we’re moving into a new phase. In the coming months,
we’ll start transferring responsibility for
security to Afghan forces. Starting this summer, we’ll
begin reducing American forces. As we transition, we’ll build a
long-term partnership with the Afghan people, so that al Qaeda
can never again threaten America from that country. And, as your Commander-in-Chief,
I am confident that we’re going to succeed in this mission. The reason I’m confident is
because in you I see the strength of
America’s military — (Woah!) — and because in recent days
we’ve all seen the resilience of the American spirit. Now, this week I received a
letter from a girl in New Jersey named Payton Wall. She wrote to me on Monday after
the news that bin Laden had been killed, and she explained
how she still remembers that September morning
almost 10 years ago. She was only four years old. Her father, Glen, was trapped
inside the World Trade Center. And so, in those
final, frantic moments, knowing he might not
make it, he called home. And Payton remembers watching
her mom sobbing as she spoke to her husband and then
passed the phone to Payton. And in words that were hard
to hear but which she’s never forgotten, he said to
her, “I love you Payton, and I will always be
watching over you.” So yesterday, Payton, her
mom, and her sister, Avery, joined me at Ground Zero. And now Payton is 14. These past 10 years
have been tough for her. In her letter, she said,
“Ever since my father died, I lost a part of me that
can never be replaced.” And she describes her childhood
as a “little girl struggling to shine through all the
darkness in her life.” But every year, more and more,
Payton is shining through. She’s playing a lot of sports,
including lacrosse and track, just like her dad. She’s doing well in school. She’s mentoring
younger students. She’s looking ahead to
high school in the fall. And so, yesterday
she was with us — a strong, confident
young woman — honoring her father’s memory,
even as she set her sights on the future. And for her and for all of us,
this week has been a reminder of what we’re about as a people. It’s easy to forget sometimes,
especially in times of hardship, times of uncertainty. We’re coming out of the worst
recession since the Great Depression; haven’t fully
recovered from that. We’ve made enormous
sacrifices in two wars. But the essence of America —
the values that have defined us for more than 200 years
— they don’t just endure; they are stronger than ever. We’re still the America
that does the hard things, that does the great things. We’re the nation that
always dared to dream. We’re the nation that’s
willing to take risks — revolutionaries breaking
free from an empire; pioneers heading West
to settle new frontiers; innovators building railways and
laying the highways and putting a man on the
surface of the moon. We are the nation — and
you’re the Division — that parachuted behind
enemy lines on D-Day, freeing a continent, liberating
concentration camps. We’re the nation that,
all those years ago, sent your Division to a high
school in Arkansas so that nine black students could
get an education. That was you. Because we believed that
all men are created equal; that everyone deserves a
chance to realize their God-given potential. We’re the nation that has
faced tough times before — tougher times than these. But when our Union frayed,
when the Depression came, when our harbor was bombed, when
our country was attacked on that September day, when disaster
strikes like that tornado that just ripped through this
region, we do not falter. We don’t turn back. We pick ourselves up and we get
on with the hard task of keeping our country strong and safe. See, there’s nothing we
can’t do together, 101st, when we remember who we are,
at that is the United States of America. (Woah!) When we remember that, no
problem is too hard and no challenge is too great. And that is why I am
so confident that, with your brave service,
America’s greatest days are still to come. (cheering and applause) God bless you. God bless the 101st. And God bless the United
States of America. (cheering and applause)

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