Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 4, 2011 – 3:18 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the White House. Thank you, Tammy, for the kind introduction, but more importantly, for your extraordinary service to our country in Iraq, in Illinois, and now as Assistant Secretary of the VA, where you’re a champion for your fellow wounded warriors. God bless you. We are so thankful for Tammy Duckworth. Give her a big round of applause. (Applause.)
I was proud to kick off this Soldier Ride two years ago. I’m just as thrilled to be kicking it off today. I’m pleased that we’re joined by a number of members of Congress here. The sun is coming out just as we start. We’re also joined by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of my top advisors over the last several years. I couldn’t be more grateful to him — General Jim “Hoss” Cartwright. Please give him a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Now, this is one of the most inspiring events that we do at the White House. We’re joined by folks from every service. We’ve got Army. (Hooah!) We’ve got some Navy folks. (Applause.) We’ve got Air Force. (Applause.) You know we’ve got some Marines. (Oorah!) And we’ve got some Coast Guard. (Applause.) And just as importantly, we are joined by those who serve and sacrifice alongside you, and that is all our outstanding military families. (Applause.)
Now, you’ve all got your gear on. You’re on your bikes. You all look pretty sharp.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Laughter.) You’re ready to go. So I’m not going to hold you back too long here with a long speech. But it is important to remember what this day is about.
Today is a reminder — as Michelle and Jill Biden have already said — that every American, every single person in this country, can do something to support our remarkable troops and their families. Everybody can do something.
So seven years ago, a bartender from Long Island had the same idea. He wasn’t from a military family. He had never served in the military. But he knew that he owed our military something. He was just an ordinary American who was grateful for the service of all those who wear the uniform. And he said, “I just wanted to give something back.”
So he jumped on his bike and rode across the country — over 5,000 miles — to raise funds and awareness for our wounded warriors. Today, there are Soldier Rides all across America giving our wounded warriors the confidence and support they need to recover. That’s the difference a single person can make. Today we want to thank Chris Carney and everyone from the Wounded Warrior Project for reminding us of our obligations to each other as Americans. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And today is also a tribute to all of you — a generation that has written your own extraordinary chapter in the American story. Our nation has been at war now for nearly 10 years. Tour after tour, year after year, you’ve done your duty. You’ve met every challenge, from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan. You’ve risked everything. And you’ve carried in your hearts the memory of fallen heroes who gave everything.
You’ve earned your place among the greatest of generation of Americans. And we saw that again this past weekend when — thanks to the courage and precision of our forces — the terrorist who started this war and who took so many innocent lives learned that America does not forget; America will ensure that justice is done. (Applause.)
Of course, for our riders here today, coming home from war marked the beginning of another battle — the battle to recover. To stand again. To walk again. To relearn, in some cases, the simple things that are the true pleasures of life — dancing with your spouse, or holding your children. In many ways, this might have been the toughest battle they’ve ever fought.
But I want all of you to know something. You inspire me. You inspire everybody here. Michelle and I treasure the moments that we’ve had with some of you and your families.
Corporal Nickolas Edinger is here. Where’s Nickolas? Right there, right in the middle. He was one of our special guests when Michelle and I hosted a recent dinner for military leaders at the White House. He was serving in Afghanistan when an IED blast cost him one of his legs. But he’s here today as part of his journey to recovery. And I want to just welcome Nickolas back.
Private First Class Corey Kent. Where’s Corey? Corey is right there. I met Corey during one of my visits to Walter Reed last year. And it was my honor to pin a Purple Heart on him. He’s lost both legs. But he’s working hard to recover, and he’s here today, ready to ride. So Corey, you are an inspiration.
Ted Wade is here. Ted, where are you? Right there. After sustaining multiple injuries in Iraq, Ted’s doctors did not think he would survive. But he persevered. He pulled through. And I was honored that Ted and his wife Sarah joined us last year when I signed legislation for veterans and caregivers. I’m pleased that Ted and Sarah are back with us again today because I can report that starting next week, our veterans, wounded warriors and caregivers can start applying for the support that you need and deserve. We are going to get this done, and we’re very proud of that. (Applause.)
Now, Sarah once said of Ted, “Just like he needed a team in the military to accomplish the mission, he needs a team at home for the longer war.” And so I say to all of you today, we’re going to keep building that team that you need for recovery. We’re determined to take care of you as well as you’ve taken care of us.
So to all the riders here today, I want to say, as your Commander-in-Chief and as an American, thank you. We are grateful for you. You represent the very best in America. And in your fight to recover and in the ride that you’re about to begin, we see the values and virtues that make our country great.
We may take a hit. We may endure great loss. But we are a strong and resilient people. We push on. We persevere. We’re confident in our cause. And we know that, like generations of Americans before us, we will emerge stronger than before.
So God bless you all. God bless the United States of America. And with that, let’s get this thing started. I think I’ve got a horn. (Applause.)
3:26 P.M. EDT