Norfolk Naval Station
1:14 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Vice Admiral Lewis, for that kind introduction and those inspiring words. And thank you, sailors. At ease. You may be seated.
To Captain Dienna, Captain Snowden, Command Master Chief Carter, to the extraordinary men and women who serve on this ship: It is my great honor to join you aboard America’s Lone Warrior, the USS Harry S. Truman, where for more than 20 years you’ve been “giving ’em hell” on every deployment. (Applause.)
And it’s especially great to return to the Truman. You know, I first set foot on this great ship just over 16 years ago, when my wife and I had the privilege of visiting with courageous sailors of this ship when it was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We arrived on a COD aircraft. I walked on today. (Laughter.) I preferred coming here on the COD, if you’re taking notes. So thanks again for the warm welcome back.
And as I begin, allow me to bring greetings from a friend of mine and a great supporter of all of the men and women who wear the uniform of our armed forces. I bring greetings from your Commander-in-Chief and the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
It really is an honor to stand before all of you here at the largest naval base in the world, to stand before men and women who stepped forward to serve in our all-volunteer Navy, to serve in a cause greater than yourselves, and to consider others’ lives more important than your own. It is the noble calling, and you’ve answered the call in the cause of freedom, and you have the respect and gratitude of the American people.
As we gather here today to honor what all of you do in the defense of freedom, I know our hearts and the hearts of the American people are elsewhere in this hemisphere, as well with the people of Venezuela as they take to the streets at this very hour in Operation Libertad. As we stand here today aboard this ship, the people of Venezuela are seeking to reclaim freedom and democracy in their nation — a nation impoverished by dictatorship, socialism, and oppression.
And so we say to President Juan Guaidó, to all the freedom-loving people of Venezuela: Estamos con ustedes — we are with you. And America will stand with you in this hemisphere of freedom until your democracy is restored. (Applause.)
And to the freedom-loving people of Venezuela, we say: As you stand for freedom, we stand with you. Vayan con Dios — go with God.
It is an honor to be with all of you today. The United States Navy is the greatest force for good the Seven Seas have ever known. (Applause.)
And President Trump asked me to be here today to pay a debt of gratitude and a debt of honor to each of you who have answered the call to serve and stand in defense of this nation, above and below these decks every day.
As President Trump said in our first year in office, in his words, “American sailors are the best warfighting sailors anywhere in the world…[and] our carriers are the centerpiece of American military might overseas.” (Applause.)
You know, I couldn’t be more proud to serve as Vice President to a President who cares so deeply about the men and women of our armed forces and who fights every day on behalf of those who fight for us.
You know, after the last administration depleted our military through constant budget cuts, I’m pleased to report to all of you gathered here that President Trump has taken decisive action to rebuild our military, and we are restoring the arsenal of democracy. (Applause.)
Last year, President Trump signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan and called for the building of 350 ship Navy. And we are on our way. (Applause.)
In fact, just a few months ago, your Commander-in-Chief proposed the largest defense budget in American history — some $750 billion — to ensure that the strongest fighting force in the history of the world is stronger still.
And the President’s budget for shipbuilding is the largest shipbuilding request in more than 20 years. (Applause.) The President’s budget request would give the United States Navy the resources to buy 12 new battle force ships. We’ll fund 55 ships over the Future Years Defense Program, and we’ll bring the United States Navy to 355 battle force ships by 2034. (Applause.)
And I’m pleased to report the President’s budget has given the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States not only the respect that you deserve every day, but the resources. This President signed the largest pay increase for men and women of our armed forces in more than 10 years. (Applause.) And you deserve every single penny.
And you can know with confidence that, under President Trump’s leadership, we will always give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and the support you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe.
And our historic investments in our military have already had a critical impact here in the Hampton Roads area. Under President Trump’s leadership, Hampton Roads saw three additional vessels homeported here, compared with two years ago. And the largest Navy installation population got even bigger, growing by more than 25,000 families.
And while it is very secondary to our national defense, the economic impact of the Navy in this region grew by more than $13 billion. That’s more than $600 million of investment in this local economy in Norfolk and in Virginia than just one year ago — promoting prosperity and jobs and support for all of your families. (Applause.)
My fellow Americans, I’m also pleased to report to you that that economic growth is not unusual these days, despite what some have been saying lately. Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, the American economy is soaring. Over the last two years, businesses large and small have created 5.5 million new jobs, and there are more Americans working today than ever before in American history. This economy is roaring, and America is back. (Applause.)
The truth is, the nation that you defend is more prosperous today than ever before. And the peace that you secure is making possible unprecedented growth. And every American is grateful for your service in defense of our freedom, in defense of our nation.
You know, it really is an honor to be back aboard the Truman. And looking out at all of you and your shining faces is incredibly inspiring. You all serve this country with great distinction. There’s a lot of stories to tell about the people who have served on this ship — past, present, and future — but let me acknowledge a couple of crew members before I leave.
Petty Officer Lamont Sewell — where are you? — from Chester, Pennsylvania. Where are you, Lamont?
Since joining the United States Navy 18 years ago, Petty Officer Sewell has grown into one of the most skilled aviation support equipment technicians here at Norfolk. He is an incredible sailor. Would you join me in congratulating the Truman’s 2018 Sailor of the Year, Petty Officer Lamont Sewell? Great job. (Applause.)
We’re also joined by another Petty Officer from the Bronx, New York. Throughout her career in the Navy, including her current role as a logistics specialist here aboard the Truman, she’s actually consistently upheld the highest levels of professionalism and leadership. And I’m sure it was no surprise to all of you when she was named the Petty Officer of the Year.
And let me see if I can — where is Petty Officer Gonzalez at? Let’s give her a big round of applause. (Applause.) Great job. Great job.
These are just a couple of examples of sailors who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. So I’m grateful that you’ve joined me in showing your appreciation for their excellence. It’s really emblematic what all of you do here each and every day. And the truth is, I have no doubt that these sailors are emblematic of each and every one of you and the service that you provide.
But let me also say, as we give credit where credit is due, I know for many of you, you do not serve alone. Mrs. Pence was at Norfolk just a couple of short weeks ago acknowledging the families that are behind our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard. So, how about a big round of applause for the Navy families that are out there — (applause) — and the wonderful spouses and kids that support you each and every day? (Applause.)
I know, for so many of you, you couldn’t do it — you just couldn’t do it without the support of the folks at home, without the spouse, without the encouragement of your kids, without your proud parents. And we remember them today.
For more than 20 years, the USS Truman and its crew have played a vital role in defending our nation and protecting our interests across the globe. And it’s humbling for me to stand among all of you that have continued that tradition. This ship has served as a constant sign to the world that we will always ensure our security and we will always stand for peace through strength.
During each deployment in its prolific career, the USS Truman has taken the fight — taken the fight to the enemy on our terms, on their soil, particularly when it comes to the battle against radical Islamist terrorism.
The USS Truman launched over 2,000 sorties throughout the Middle East in the last year alone. And the 7,500 sailors who serve in the Truman’s Carrier Strike Group played an essential part in crippling ISIS, bombarding their territory, I’m told with nearly 1,600 precision munitions, the most of any U.S. Strike Group. And now the ISIS caliphate’s territory is no more. Job well done, Truman. (Applause.)
The Truman has also been there to provide desperately needed relief to Americans suffering in the wake of natural disasters and tragedies, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’m told the crew of this ship delivered meals, clean water, and other vital supplies to those whose lives were torn apart in that devastating storm.
And just last year, this ship helped revolutionize naval warfare when it became the first carrier to deploy under Dynamic Force Employment. This new approach will make our Navy “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable,” ensuring that our readiness and long-term reliability never undermine our security.
As part of that deployment, the Truman made history and participated in Trident Juncture, the largest NATO military exercise since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It involved some 14,000 American troops, 29 NATO members.
And last year, this ship became the first American carrier to operate within the Arctic Circle in more than two decades. Job well done. You showed the U.S. Navy stands ready to defend America’s interests anywhere in the world. (Applause.)
You know, this history and these achievements are a testament — a testament to your professionalism, the professionalism that each one of you shows every day. It’s inspiring to see. It’s a testament to your dedication, your leadership, and the remarkable efficiency and command readiness.
I’m told, last year, actually, the USS Truman was awarded the “Battle E,” which is given to the ship that demonstrates the highest level of performance of any carrier on the East Coast. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.) That’s just a sign of excellence and commitment that’s making our nation safer.
I’m here to tell you that President Trump and I are proud of the Truman. In fact, I met with the President at the White House this morning, and I told him I was going to be with all of you here on the deck of the Truman. And I can assure you the President and I understand the importance of the work that you do every day. And I know that I speak on behalf of all the American people when I say that we couldn’t be more proud and we couldn’t be more grateful for your patriotism and your selflessness.
And as I stand before you today, I know that the future of this aircraft carrier is the subject of some budget discussions in Washington, D.C. And as we continue to fight Congress to make sure that our military has the resources you need to accomplish your mission, President Donald Trump asked me to deliver a message to each and every one of you on the deck of the USS Truman: We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman. (Applause.)
The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be “giving ‘em hell” for many more years to come. (Applause.)
You know, the ship you serve aboard bears a proud and noble name. It’s a man who distinguished himself as an artillery officer in World War I. He answered the call to public service. He served in the United States Senate, was a Vice President, and then President of the United States of America.
But throughout his life, Harry S. Truman was tried and tested, and he always met the challenge — just like all of you. Through adversity, his greatness emerged. And history now records the enormous contributions that President Harry S. Truman made to the life of this nation.
You all have been tested, as well, during your service here aboard the ship that bears his name. And you’ve shown your greatness as well.
So to all of you who serve here aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, this Vice President has a simple word for you: Thank you for your service.
And I urge you to press on. Maintain the standards of excellence that are synonymous with this ship throughout its more than 20-year history. Be vigilant. Mind your mission. Take care of one another. The American people are counting on you.
You know, my life never took me into the uniform of the United States, but I’m the proud son of a combat veteran from the Korean War, and I’m the proud father of an aviator in the United States Marine Corps.
In fact, just last year, as his mother and I were awaiting word, our son did his first capture aboard an aircraft carrier. I think we were more nervous than he was. (Laughter.) The truth of the matter is, we were confident not so much in his abilities, but in the people that had trained him; the people on that deck that were looking after him as they called the ball and made his way in.
So let me just close today with a word of gratitude on behalf of all the parents around America who appreciate what you do, appreciate the way you look after our sailors, our airmen, and all those who serve on this ship, who come and go into harm’s way from this place and sail with you into harm’s way.
We all know that your service comes with sacrifice for you, for your families. And I want you to know that as you serve and as you sail, you do not go alone. You carry with you the strength and the pride and the confidence of the American people.
And you also carry with you one more thing, and that is the prayers of millions of Americans who carry each one of you before the throne of grace every day, who pray for your families and for your mission, for your safety, and for your success. And I pray that as you sail and as you serve, you would do so with confidence and with faith yourself.
And as the Old Book tells us, “If [you] rise on the wings of the dawn…if [you] go up to the heavens…even there [His] hand will guide [you] and [His] right hand will hold [you] fast.” And you do not go alone.
As I look out across this deck today, I see men and women who have answered the call to put on the uniform of the United States of America, the greatest nation in the history of the world.
And I know, as long as we have men and women of courage and selflessness, like all of you gathered here; as long as we have heroes willing to put the lives on the line for our freedom; as long as we have patriots like all of you, we will protect this nation. We will defend our freedom. We will forge a future of security, and prosperity, and peace for ourselves and our posterity.
God bless the crew of the USS Harry S. Truman as you sail on in defense of America. Thank you. And God bless you. (Applause.)
1:37 P.M. EDT