Remarks by the Vice President to Indiana Honor Flight Veterans and Volunteers
Indian Treaty Room
1:12 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well hello, Indiana!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Secretary Shulkin, thank you for that overly generous introduction. More importantly, thank you for your strong leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Our services to our veterans are getting better every day because of the leadership of our President and because of Secretary David Shulkin. Would you join me in thanking him one more time for the great work that he's doing? (Applause.)
And it is great to be with all of you today, humbling in fact, to be among so many American heroes -- so many Hoosier heroes -- veterans of the Lafayette Honor Flight. On behalf of the President of the United States and the entire First Family, welcome to the White House. (Applause.)
I had to stop by and see you all today. I'm going to be jumping on Air Force Two in just a little bit and headed to catch up with the President in New York City, where there's a lot going on this week with the U.N. General Assembly.
But it really is my great honor to be able to welcome you all here today. And to share a few remarks about your service and the ongoing commitment, not only of this administration but the people of the United States to all of the men and women who have served and who are serving this country.
But before I go one step further, I expect there's probably some Air Force in the room, and I'm told that today is the 70th birthday of the United States Air Force. So let's hear it. (Applause.)
The Old Book says, if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect. And I'm just here today on behalf of your President and our entire administration to pay a debt of gratitude, a debt of honor, and a debt of respect to each and every one of you who stepped up -- stepped forward and put on the uniform of the United States in your time.
As the President said recently, “You are part of a long unbroken chain of American heroes.”
And behalf on your Commander-in-Chief and all the American people, thank you for your service. Thank you for your selfless defense of our families and the way you've stood and fought for freedom. You are in a very real sense, the best of us. We owe you a debt we can never fully repay.
Each of you served in Vietnam, I'm told, on that frontline of freedom. Amidst the jungles and the rice paddies, you stood strong. And the image of your courage is forever seared into the mind of the American people. As our 40th President said, your cause was a “noble cause” and you “fought as well and as bravely as any Americans have ever fought in any war.”
And on behalf of President Donald Trump, and my family, and a grateful America, I say to all the Vietnam veterans who are here, welcome home. (Applause.)
Today is a part of that welcome -- an ongoing, well-deserved warm welcome home. And thanks to the Honor Flight Network, you’ve come here to our nation's capital, to visit, I'm told, the Vietnam Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and to pay your respects to those who served beside you and didn’t come home.
Before I go further, let me just take a minute to say thank you to the Honor Flight Network and all these great red-shirt-wearing volunteers who are here with us today.
For more than a decade, the Honor Flight Network has brought heroes like every one of you to Washington, D.C. to see firsthand how our nation has remembered, memorialized, and immortalized your service to America.
Today the Honor Flight Network has more than 125 hubs, including the Lafayette Honor Flight. And I’d especially like to thank not only the co-presidents, Pamela Mow and Dana Vann, who are two Gold Star moms who’ve organized 17 flights. Let’s hear it for them. Where are they? (Applause.) But also all these red-shirt-wearing volunteers who are going to make this such a special day. Thank you. Thank you for loving our troops and thank you for your family’s example.
We honor your service through memorials here in our nation’s capital, but I know every one of you would agree with our President and myself when I say we mostly honor your service by ensuring that the men and women currently serving in harm's way have the resources and training they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe. (Applause.)
And I’m pleased to report to all the veterans gathered here, President Trump has already signed the largest increase in military spending in nearly a decade. And at this very moment, we’re working with the Congress to pass what will be the largest investment in military readiness since the days of Ronald Reagan.
Under President Trump’s leadership, I promise you: As the President likes to say, we're going to make the strongest military in the world even stronger still. (Applause.)
And as the President made clear in his address on Afghanistan just a little more than a month ago here at Fort Myer, we will be giving our men and women in uniform a plan for victory. And I’ll promise you this, under this Commander-in-Chief, when America goes to fight, America will go to fight to win. (Applause.)
President Trump is also committed to honor your service, as he likes to say, to stand with those who protected us, and he’s been busy keeping his word to the men and women who have worn the uniform of this country.
President Trump has been working tirelessly to empower veterans to get the care you earned and the service and sacrifice that you deserve. Whether it’s at the VA or even at a private health-care provider, we've been working with the Congress to advance opportunities and legislation that expands choices for veterans.
Secretary Shulkin has been very active in this regard, and we commend him for it. I know the President is grateful. The President actually extended the Veterans Choice program in April, and last month, he signed into law legislation that will expand the Veterans Choice program with an additional $2.1 billion per year. We're going to open the doorway to better healthcare for our veterans all across America in real time. (Applause.)
And working with Secretary Shulkin and his team, our entire administration is working every day to make the VA as efficient, effective, and as accountable as each and every one of you deserve. We’ve already established a new White House VA hotline -- principally staffed by veterans, for veterans.
And to restore the highest level of service at the VA, President Trump signed a law to enact historic protections for whistleblowers, and we're pleased to report we’ve already fired or suspended nearly 1,000 VA employees -- because this White House will never tolerate the mistreatment of American heroes. (Applause.)
As President Trump said not long ago, in his words, “We will not rest until all of America’s great veterans can receive the care they so richly deserve.”
As I close, let me say what a special joy it is to have a chance to stand with so many great Hoosiers who’ve worn the uniform of the United States.
My life never took me into the armed forces, but I’m proud to say that my dad served in the United States Army and served in Korea. And I’m an especially proud father of a United States Marine.
It was just a few short months ago that I traveled to the country where my father saw combat. I literally stood at the -- what was the -- near the Demilitarized Zone, the 38th Parallel, as it’s known, on that frontline of freedom, where South Korea meets North Korea. I looked out at the hills, and the commanding officer pointed me in the direction of where Pork Chop Hill actually was just over the horizon, where my dad fought together with his brothers in the 45th Infantry Division.
My dad got a Bronze Star for his service, and my family allows me to proudly display that medal in my office here in the West Wing. But I got to be honest with you, when my brothers and sisters and I were growing up, Dad didn’t keep that medal on his desk. It wasn’t framed and on the wall. It was in a drawer, where no one could see it.
My dad didn't talk a whole lot about his time in combat. And those of you that have seen combat, all those gathered here know whereof I speak more than I do. My dad really didn’t consider himself a hero. Whenever we’d ask him about it, he’d say, the heroes were my friends that didn’t come home.
In just a few hours, you all are going to have an opportunity to go pay your respects at the Vietnam Memorial and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And I know you're going to be feeling just exactly the same way.
But all of you here today I know carry a burden in your heart. And I just -- I want you all to know that -- while it’s something I think civilians like me will never fully understand, just know that you carry the deepest respect of the American people and all of those who have prospered under the freedom and the liberty that you defended.
And as you carry this burden deep in your hearts, just know that you don’t carry it alone. I promise you. The American people will always be grateful for your service. We’ll always stand with you and all the men and women of the armed forces, past and present.
And I’ll make you one more promise: The veterans of this country and the members of our armed forces will never have a better friend in the White House than President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
So, my fellow Hoosiers, once again, welcome to Washington, D.C. It’s really a great honor to be able to welcome you here to the White House, and it’s a deeply humbling one -- deeply humbling for me to have the opportunity to serve here in this new capacity and deeply humbling for me to be able stand before all of you today.
I hope today is for you as deeply meaningful as it is for me to be able to welcome you here. And so let me close simply by saying, on behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, thank you for your service.
May God bless each and every one of you and all those that will be remembered in your Honor Flight today and may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
1:23 P.M. EDT