Nellis Air Force Base
Las Vegas, Nevada

1:29 P.M. PDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  It’s an honor to be back at Nellis Air Force Base, the “home of the fighter pilot” for the American people.  (Applause.)

Great to be here, and honored to be among so many heroes again, and to have the opportunity to be back with all of you.  And also, join me in thanking — we’re surrounded by so many great men and women in uniform who are all a part of this extraordinary flagship of the United States Air Force — but how about all of our active duty personnel?  Join me in thanking these extraordinary men and women — the veterans among us who have served our nation with distinction and join us here today.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you all.  Thanks for your service.

And to one and all, I want to bring greetings from a friend of mine.  I spoke to him this morning before he left Montana, before I was wheels up from Washington, D.C.  Allow me to bring greetings from a great champion of our armed forces and our veterans.  I bring greetings from your Commander-in-Chief — the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

And thank you all for being here.  Thank you all for giving  us such a warm welcome.  But more importantly, thank you for what each and every one of your do to provide for our national defense each and every day.

And I want to thank Senator Dean Heller.  It is remarkable to think of the work that he’s done here.  Not only he’s a tenacious champion for our armed forces, tenacious champion for Nellis Air Force Base, but he’s also a great champion, as you just heard, of the more than 300,000 veterans across Nevada.  Join me in thanking, again, Senator Dean Heller for his leadership for the people of Nevada and America.  (Applause.)  Senator, thank you.

Let me also recognize a great veteran of the United States Marine Corps that you also just heard from, who we — we’ve had him on the job for officially five days, but he’s already doing a fantastic job making sure that our veterans have the support that they need, the benefits that they’ve earned.  Join me in thanking VA Deputy Secretary Jim Byrne.  Jim, thanks for stepping up for your country one more time.  (Applause.)  Great words, today.

I’m also grateful to be joined by another remarkable Nevadan with a heart for this state’s heroes.  About a decade ago, I’m told that he saw Nevada’s homeless veterans struggling, needing help.  And so he founded Veterans Village seven years ago to give them the stability and springboard that they need to get back on their feet and lead productive lives.  I just had a chance to meet him, and members of his family and his team.  But join me in thanking Dr. Arnold Stalk for caring so much for our veterans and all that he’s done.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  What a great organization Veterans Village is.

And second to last, let me also thank — let me thank “Blend’r”, the Commander of the 57th Fighter Wing — a great American military leader — Brigadier General Rob Novotny.  Let’s hear it.  (Applause.)  Thank you, General.  Thanks for your leadership, General.  And thanks for your commitment to this nation.

Before I go further, I have to tell you, it is — it’s also very meaningful for me to be here today among heroes that I had a chance to spend time with in January of this last year.  And to be back here, it’s a special honor, of course, to be among the Thunderbirds — the extraordinary aviators of the United States Air Force.  (Applause.)

But I can’t help but take a moment, as I know you’d want me to, to remember one of your own.  A man who flew with the Thunderbirds who I had an opportunity to meet when I was here just earlier this year.  We lost him in a tragic incident in April of this year.

But this Major actually had a lifelong love for flying.  He had — just over 10 years ago, he had made the choice to put that love to work for the United States Air Force.  As an officer of the Air Force, over the course of his career, he spent 3,500 hours in the air.

He was a Thunderbird.  He was a patriot.  And let me say to his family, to all of the Airmen and comrades gathered here today, America will never forget and never fail to honor Major Stephen Del Bagno.  And we remember him today.  (Applause.)  We do.

Well, I just came by, really, just to say thank you — just a very simple thank you for your service from your Commander-in-Chief, from his number two, and on behalf of the American people for what each and every one of you do at Nellis Air Force Base each and every day.

I truly do believe there’s maybe no better place to express the gratitude of the American people than at this storied air force base.  It’s been a center of American national security for more than 75 years.  Nearly 60,000 gunners trained here before taking wing in the Second World War.  Many of the fighter aces from Korea and Vietnam sharpened their abilities in the skies above us.  And to this day, Nellis Air Force Base trains “the best combat aviators in the world.”  (Applause.)  It’s true.

Frankly, your accomplishments are fitting, given the man after whom this base is named.  In the Second World War, Flight Officer William Harrell Nellis served in the 513th Fighter Squadron.  Over six short months, he flew 70 aerial combat missions.  Shot down three times, only to return to the fight.

And on this hero’s final flight that took place just 2 days before [after] Christmas, in 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.  While attacking a heavily armed German convoy, he was hit by ground fire, brought down — but not before he inflicted grievous damage on the enemy.  Nellis Air Force Base is a fitting tribute to this great American, and you all honor his memory by living out that tradition every day.  (Applause.)

You know — you know, it’s been said, “As goes Nellis, so goes the Air Force.”  And as many of our veterans can attest, the training and testing that happens here ultimately saves lives on the battlefield and ensures that our heroes are able to come home safe to their families after they complete their mission.

And to all of you gathered here today, let me assure you, with this Commander-in-Chief, this White House will always have your back.  That’s a promise.  (Applause.)

You know, I couldn’t be more proud to serve as Vice President to a President who is so committed to the men and women of our armed forces and our veterans.  From the very first day of this administration, President Trump went to work to rebuild our military, restore the arsenal of democracy.  And in the last year, with the strong support of Senator Dean Heller, this President has signed the largest increase in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.  (Applause.)

Thanks to the legislation the President signed last month, we’re giving the Air Force new tools and equipment you need to fight and win.  We’re building 15 new KC-46 Pegasus tankers.  We’re developing the new light-attack aircraft while replacing the wings on the A-10.  We’re fully funding the development of the B-21 Raider.  And this year, we’re putting 48 new Air Force F-35 fighters into production, and they’ll soon be in the air over Nellis Air Force Base.  (Applause.)  It’s true.

And just in case you hadn’t heard about it, that legislation also will include the largest pay raise in nearly 10 years for the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States.  (Applause.)  Well deserved.

And you should all know that Senator Heller stood with us — stood with us every step of the way as we made these efforts to invest in our national defense to rebuild our military.  Your Senator has also stood with us, from his position on the Veteran’s Affairs Committee in the United States Senate, to be a champion for our veterans.

You just heard him say it, but let me acknowledge it.  What an extraordinary record that President Donald Trump, in our first year and a half, has actually signed more than 15 bills authored and introduced by Senator Dean Heller to improve the services and benefits of veterans all across Nevada, and all across the United States.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Senator.  Wow.

Truth is, with the Senator’s help, with the majority in the Congress of the United States, we’ve been making historic investments and reforms in our veterans programs across this country.  As the Deputy Secretary just described, we’ve enacted legislation to bring the VA appeals process into the 21st century.  We’re now on pace to process most appeals cases in a single — excuse me, let me say this so you hear right — we’re now on pace to process the most appeals cases for the VA in a single year in American history.  That’s real results.  (Applause.)  And we’re closer than ever before to ending the VA backlog once and for all.  (Applause.)

You’ll all also know, in our first year, we enacted historic new legislation to restore accountability to the VA.  And at this point, literally thousands of employees who previously could not be dismissed have been dismissed from the VA for not providing appropriate and timely healthcare to our veterans.

And finally, this President fought — Senator Heller and other members in Congress provided an opportunity for veterans to have real choice.  We passed Veterans Choice to make sure that our veterans have access to the real-time, world-class healthcare that they earned in the uniform of the United States of America, either at the VA or at a private healthcare provider.  Veterans Choice has arrived.  (Applause.)

As the President likes to say, “You fought for us in your time.”  You all, are all fighting for us today, and I want to promise you, under this administration, this Commander-in-Chief, we’re going to fight for you every single day.

But it’s very humbling for me to be with you today.  I look forward to meeting you, as many of you as possible.  But it’s humbling for me to stand among men and women in the uniform of the United States and those who have worn the uniform.  You see, my life didn’t take me into the uniform of the United States, but I am the son of a combat veteran — served in the Army in the Korean War.  And I’m the proud father of a United States Marine Lieutenant who will get his wings of gold in just a few weeks.  And we couldn’t be more proud.  (Applause.)

And that’s where I wanted to land today, is just to say to all of you that your nation is proud of you.  Proud of the work that you do here every day at Nellis Air Force Base.  Proud of the way you aviators take to the skies, and this world-class maintenance team makes it possible that the best — the best equipment in the world can fly safely and accomplish this mission and come back wheels down.

We’re proud of each and every one of you, but I — not so much as your Vice President, but as a proud parent.  And I also know how proud your families are.  And so I just want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you for stepping up to serve your country at such a time as this.

Because of your willingness in this all-volunteer armed forces, we’re making sure every day that America can protect our people and meet any threat that we will face now and in the future.

And so, thank you.  Thank you for your service.  Truthfully, this is the land of the free because it’s still the home of the brave.  And you, men and women, of the 57th Fighter Wing, the men and women of Nellis Air Force Base, past and present, are that brave.  And you have the thanks and gratitude of the American people.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you for your service.  God bless Nellis and God bless the United States of America.

END

1:44 P.M. PDT