Obama Commends Camp Pendleton Troops
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Aired 8/8/13 on KPBS News.
President Barack Obama visited Camp Pendleton for the first time on Wednesday, thanking the troops for their service and calling on Congress to help him stop sequestration.
SAN DIEGO As the presidential helicopter, Marine One, started lowering out of the sky above Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, all eyes were trained on it. The crowd of some 3,000 troops and their families craned their necks to catch a glimpse of Pres. Barack Obama as he stepped onto Camp Pendleton for the first time. Instead, the presidential limo carried him to a room where he met with the families of fallen troops, thanking them for their sacrifice.
Nearly half an hour later, President Obama jogged up the steps to the podium as the crowd roared and the Marine Corps band played. He began with many words of gratitude for the Marines, with a special word of thanks for the "ultimate sacrifice" of those 324 Camp Pendleton Marines who have been killed during the war in Afghanistan.
"Our war in Afghanistan has entered the final chapter," Obama said. "More of our troops are coming home: we'll be down to 34,000 this winter. By the end of next year, in just 17 months, the transition will be complete. Afghans will take full responsibility for their security, and our war in Afghanistan will be over."
He also thanked the Marines for their service on the battlefields of Iraq.
"When future generations study those fights," he said, "they will stand in awe of the unparalleled sacrifice of the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, our Dark Horse Marines."
Obama also warned that the end of the war in Afghanistan does not mean the end of danger. For this reason, he pledged to keep the military strong despite federal budget cuts.
"Here at Pendleton, you're feeling it. Hard-working folks are getting furloughed. Families getting by on less. Fewer ships available for your training exercises. The commissaries your families relied on closed a day a week. We can do better than that. That's not how a great nation should be treating its military and military families," Obama said. "So that's why I'm going to keep on working to get rid of the sequester. You get up and you do your jobs every day; let's make sure Washington gets up and does its job."
The president also pledged to keep up efforts to find jobs for veterans, and to help wounded warriors. He told the story of one Marine who lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan, and re-deployed on prosthetic legs within 18 months. He was in the crowd Wednesday, and got a thunderous round of applause.
"After all you've given to our nation, you have to know your nation will always be faithful to you," Obama said after the applause.
Obama ended his speech with a proclamation of "Semper Fi" and then spent 10 minutes shaking hands and taking photos with the troops and their families.