"We Stand in Awe of Your Service": President Obama Makes a Surprise Trip to Thank Troops in Afghanistan
02:43 PM EDT
U.S. troops react as they shake hands with President Barack Obama at Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama made a surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan today to thank the American troops and civilians stationed there for their service.
Following an opening performance by Brad Paisley, the President addressed about 3,000 troops in a hangar on the base.
He let them know that he was there "on a single mission" -- and that was to say thank you.
"I thank you as your Commander-in-Chief because you inspire me," the President said. "Your willingness to serve, to step forward at a time of war, and say 'send me,' is the reason the United States stays strong and free. Of all the honors that I have serving as President, nothing matches serving as your Commander-in-Chief."
The President went on to say that, after more than a decade of war, we're at a "pivotal moment" in Afghanistan.
Last year marked a major milestone -- for the first time, Afghan forces took the lead to secure their own country. And today, you’re in a support role -- helping to train and assist Afghan forces. For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan. And by the end of this year, the transition will be complete and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security, and our combat mission will be over. America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.
The President also noted that our progress in Afghanistan has come "at a heavy price."
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. At bases here in Afghanistan and towns across America, we will pause and we'll pay tribute to all those who’ve laid down their lives for our freedom. And that includes nearly 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice, that last, full measure of devotion, right here in Afghanistan. I know you’ve stood in front of those battle crosses. I know many of you carry the memories of your fallen comrades in your heart today. We will honor every single one of them -- not just tomorrow, but forever.
In closing, the President described how, in spite of all our country has been though, "our flag is still there."
... Our flag is still there because when our nation was attacked, a generation -- this generation, the 9/11 Generation -- stepped up and said “send me.” Our flag is still there because you’ve served with honor in dusty villages and city streets, and in rugged bases and remote outposts, in Helmand and Kandahar, and Khost and Kunar and Paktika and Nuristan. Our flag is still there because through this long war you never wavered in your belief that people deserve to live free from fear -- over here and back home. Our flag will always be there, because the freedom and liberty it represents to the world will always be defended by patriots like you.
Following his remarks, the President also visited with wounded troops in the military hospital at Bagram Air Base.
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