Al Asad Air Base
Al Anbar Province, Iraq
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, Al Asad! (Applause.) To Lieutenant General White, Colonel Leavitt, to the incredible men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines — the Armed Forces of the United States of America — it is Thanksgiving week. And it is our great honor to be here today to say thank you for your service here at the tip of the spear, Al Asad Air Base, Iraq! Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.) (Inaudible.) (Applause.)
And as I begin, allow me to bring greetings from a friend of ours and a tireless champion of our armed forces and a Commander-in-Chief who will always have your back. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
The President wanted us to be here at the start of this holiday week to make sure you all know how thankful we are and every American is for your courageous service here in Iraq.
And we know it’s got to be hard to be so far away from home, especially at this time of the year. We know it’s hard on you, but it’s also — it’s hard on your parents, on your spouses, and your kids who are going to miss you at the Thanksgiving table this week. And it’s really — it’s really what brought us here today.
And speaking of families, it’s a special honor for me to be here with the most important person in my life. She’s a Marine Corps mom. She’s a tireless advocate for military families. And she and the First Lady, in fact, were just making care packages for our troops at the Red Cross earlier this week. So would you join me in giving a big Al Asad welcome to my wife of 34 years and the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence? (Applause.)
THE SECOND LADY: Well, I just want to take a minute to say that your parents are proud of you; your grandparents, your kids are proud of you; your spouses, your girlfriends, your friends at home are so proud of you.
And I just wanted to take a second to let you know that my initiative of speaking to and encouraging military spouses all over the United States, I always tell them that their service directly, not indirectly — but their service directly impacts the security of our nation, because I know they’re the home-front heroes and they’re keeping things going at home.
So, if you would please, the next time you talk to your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your spouse, your kids, your parents, tell them that we are so grateful for their service as well. Thanks, everybody. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And why don’t we hear it for all the families back home keeping the home fires burning this Thanksgiving week. Let’s give a big round of applause. (Applause.) Thank you, dear. That’s for you back home.
You know, the Old Book says, if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect. And I’m really here today, on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief and all of the American people to pay a debt of honor and respect and gratitude to each and every one of you for your service to the United States of America.
And in this special time of the year, I just want you all to know that you’re on the hearts of every American. In gatherings large and small all across the country, I know there’ll be a place saved at Thanksgiving tables for each and every one of you. But I also know that millions of Americans, when they pause to reflect on what they’re thankful for, they’re going to breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for each and every one of you and all of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States deployed around the world. I promise you that.
The American people know that while you come from the rest of us, you’re the best of us. You volunteered to serve. And every American is proud of you and more thankful for your service than you’ll ever know.
You know, some people spend their entire lives wondering if they’ve made a difference. But you’ll never have that problem. You stepped forward. You raised your right hand. You support — you swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, and it’s exactly what you’re doing at this very hour. And it’s incredibly inspiring.
Here at Al Asad Air Base, you prove every day what the world knows: The Armed Forces of the United States are the greatest force for good the world has ever known, and you are that force. (Applause.)
And I’m here — but I’m here not only to say thank you for your service during this holiday week, but also — also to assure you that from the earliest days of our administration, President Trump has taken decisive action to provide you with the resources and the support and the equipment that you need. We’ve worked every day to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still.
In our first year in office, President Trump signed the largest increase in our national defense in a generation, including the largest pay raise for the men and women of our armed forces in more than 10 years. And you deserved every penny.
As the President said — well, you can applaud that if you want because we’re going to keep it coming. (Applause.)
As the President said not long ago, “Our active-duty personnel are now the best-equipped, best-trained, [and] most technologically-advanced fighting force in the history of the world.” And it’s true.
Today, in budget negotiations with Congress, I’m proud to report to you that we’re fighting to secure another pay raise for the men and women in our military, and it’ll be the biggest in nine years. (Applause.) We’re going to keep it coming.
But we need Congress to do their job. My fellow Americans gathered here, the truth is, Congress should’ve finished their work on defense appropriations months ago, but you all know that partisan politics and endless investigations have slowed things down a bit in Washington, D.C.
But I’ll make you a promise: This President, this Vice President, and our administration will never stop fighting until we get you — our troops — the resources you need to accomplish your mission and defend this nation, so help me God. (Applause.) We’ll do it.
So we’ve rebuilt our military and renewed American strength, and you are that strength. With your courageous service here at Al Asad Air Base, we’ve taken the fight to radical Islamic terrorism on our terms, on their soil.
It’s remarkable to think that when we took office, the so-called ISIS caliphate had overrun vast territory here in Iraq and in Syria. But thanks to your courageous service and those who went before you here at Al Asad, in March of this year, the Armed Forces of the United States and our allies captured the last inch of territory beneath the black flag of ISIS. Well done, Al Asad. (Applause.)
And as the world watched, one month ago, the Armed Forces of the United States took out the world’s number-one terrorist leader without one American casualty. (Applause.) Thanks to the professionalism of our Special Forces, the support that you provided here at Al Asad, and the decisiveness of your Commander-in-Chief, the leader of ISIS is dead, and America and the world are safer as a result.
I have to tell all of you, I was with President Trump in the Situation Room at the White House and we watched in real-time as U.S. Special Forces descended on the — on al-Baghdadi’s compound in Syria, executing their mission flawlessly. I was there when the call came in through CENTCOM, from the ground. I’ll never forget the words: “One hundred percent confidence. Jackpot. Over.” (Applause.) Incredible.
I mean, to see forces like all of you descend on that compound and take out the most dangerous terrorist leader in the world was incredibly inspiring. And the President said just as much in the days that followed.
By taking out the leader of ISIS, make no mistake about it: You’ve made measurable progress in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. But as President Trump made clear, and as all of you know, the United States of America will never relent in our commitment “to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and [any] terrorist organization” that threatens our country. I promise you. (Applause.)
And I know I don’t have to tell any of you that because each one of you who serves here at Al Asad Air Base plays a continuing and vital role in that mission. And as you stand your post, I want you to know that your President, his Vice President, and the American people are behind you 100 percent.
So today, on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, let me encourage you: Keep bringing your best to this mission every day. Be vigilant. Mind your mission, mind your people. Respect the chain of command. Take care of each other. And never doubt for a second that your service here matters to the security of the United States of America and the security of the free world.
You know, it’s humbling for me to stand before you today because my life didn’t take me into the uniform of the United States. But I’m proud to say I’m the son of a United States Army combat veteran who served in the Korean War. And we’re the proud parents of a United States Marine.
So maybe it’s altogether fitting during this Thanksgiving week, as a family member, for me to be able to come here — and as a fellow American — just to speak a word of gratitude to each and every one of you during this special time of the year.
We know, as family members, that your service comes with sacrifice. You stepped forward in a calling where you counted our lives as more important than your own. But I want to assure you, as you bear that burden here, as you wear the uniform, as you stand a post so far from home, you do not bear that burden alone.
On this Thanksgiving week, I want to assure you that whatever the mission, wherever you’re called, you will carry with you the strength and pride of the American people, the confidence of your Commander-in-Chief. And I also know that you will carry with you the prayers of millions of Americans who are grateful every day for your service in this distant place.
And I know, as I said before, and especially this week of Thanksgiving, millions of Americans will pray for your protection and your service and your success, and for your families back home. And I believe many will pray, in the words of the Psalmist, that no harm would befall you, no plague would come near your tent, and that He would command his angels concerning you to watch over you in all your ways. It’s a prayer I know will come from the heart of millions of Americans.
So thank you for the warm welcome today here at Al Asad. It was a real honor for Karen and me to be able to spend some time with all of you. We look forward to meeting as many of you as time permits. We served up a little bit of turkey, and there may be some leftovers for you if you get over to the mess hall. And they look pretty good.
But I know it doesn’t beat a home-cooked meal or spending time with your families, but we hope maybe that we brought a little bit of home here to Al Asad Base, here in Iraq, and a reminder of just how thankful every American is for each and every one of you.
And I leave here today, just as I do every time I stand among men and women like you, with a grateful heart and confidence that as long as we have men and women like all of you with the courage to step forward and serve, as long as we have heroes willing to put your lives on the line, as long as we have patriots like all of you to defend our nation, I know America will be safe, our freedom will be secure, and the best days for the greatest nation on Earth are yet to come.
But to all of the men and women of Al Asad Air Base, the Armed Forces of the United States of America, on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief and every American: Happy Thanksgiving. And God bless you all. (Applause.)