The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

Thank you, Secretary Austin, and — for your warm welcome today and for your leadership.  And to the personnel here at the Pentagon, both civilian and uniformed, thank you for your dedication and for your discipline.  And thank you for keeping our nation safe.

Over the years, I have visited bases in California and I’ve also traveled to meet with service members stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The service members I’ve met — our troops around the world — face daunting challenges, but they do not flinch.  They do not let their energy flag.  They defend our country, they deter our enemies, and they sometimes do it all thousands of miles away from their homes and their families. 

Service and sacrifice is in your DNA.  It defines who you are.  It defines what you do.  It defines how we lead worldwide.

And today, as we face global threats to our climate and to our health, to our physical security and cybersecurity, your work is of profound importance and consequence.  And that’s why the President and I are here today: to tell you that we stand with you and we stand for you.

You are the best and the bravest fighting force in the world.  You know that success comes not just from training and equipment, though that is certainly crucial, but also from clarity in vision and in mission, in strategy and in tactics.  It comes not only from force — though when we must fight, we will fight to win — but also from diplomacy, development, and our democratic principles. 

That is what we pledge to you: We will always honor your service and sacrifice.  We will always support you because your success ensures our nation’s security, because your success ensures our nation’s success.

You have wise and steadfast leadership in Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley, and you have a Commander-in-Chief — we have a Commander-in-Chief in our country who knows from personal experience the burden that you and your families carry.  He has so much respect for each and every one of you, as do I.

As you know, this is Black History Month.  And while we celebrate that part of America’s history every day, let us honor also today the black soldiers who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, the black infantrymen of the Civil War, the black WAVES of World War Two, the many courageous Americans who throughout our history have answered the call to duty.  They didn’t just join to make history; they joined to serve.  And all of you joined to serve.

So, as we next hear from our President, let me just end where I began a few months ago.  In Ohio, I met the mother of one of the service members I met in Kabul — a soldier by the name of Shaiyla.  And her mother was so proud of her daughter, and she came up to me and she said, “Do you remember my daughter?”  She showed me a picture of her, and she asked me would I call Shaiyla and leave her a message.  And it was a simple message: I told her how thankful I was and her nation is for her service. 

And I’m thankful to all of you, and of course, so is our President — your President, so is our nation.  So may God bless you.  And may God bless America.
 

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