Fort Hood, Texas - Vice President Pence to Service Members and Veterans at U.S. Army Fort Hood:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, Fort Hood!
AUDIENCE: Hooah! (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It is great to be back in Texas and it’s great to be at the Great Place. (Applause.) And thank you all. And especially to all of those troopers behind me: At ease.
Congressman Carter, Congressman Williams, Deputy Secretary of the VA Jim Byrne, General Ken Kamper, General Jeff Broadwater, Command Sergeant Major Adam Nash, but especially to all of you — all the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States of America: It is an honor to be here today at Fort Hood, “America’s Hammer.” (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And as I get started, allow me to bring greetings from a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, and someone who’s been working to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still. I bring greeting from your Commander-in-Chief and the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And I’m here today, on the President’s behalf, to deliver a simple message to each and every one of you from the heart of the American people: Thank you for your service. We’re proud of all you. The American people are more grateful for your service than you will ever know.
You come from the rest of us, but make no mistake about it: you are the best of us. And you are “Army Strong.”
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And we’re grateful, not only to those of you who wear the uniform, but we’re grateful to all of those who stand alongside you. So many of you serve every day as a family. And while you train and while you deploy, it’s your wives, your husbands, your parents who keep the home fires burning. So how about — how about a big round of applause for all the family members who support all of you who serve? (Applause.)
And the work at this historic base would not be possible without the contributions made by our civilian personnel, many of whom formally served in the uniform of the United States. So let’s hear it for all of our civilian personnel serving here on Fort Hood. (Applause.)
As I look out across this impressive crowd, it’s remarkable to think of the countless American heroes who stood where we’re all standing today. Over the last 77 years, countless warriors have come here and countless warriors have gone out from here, from this place to every corner of the world — Vietnam, Bosnia, Germany, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Fort Hood, as “Camp Hood,” was established just months after Pearl Harbor, at a time of national crisis and the most destructive war the world had ever seen. And in just a few short years, Fort Hood helped us achieve total victory. Armored units trained right here overran the Nazi forces in Europe. And under the leadership of heroes like Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers — who trained here before he gave his life, and was awarded, posthumously, the Medal of Honor — he and all the soldiers who trained here at Fort Hood distinguished themselves and delivered a historic victory for freedom.
Since then, as the challenges facing our nation have evolved, Fort Hood has expanded and the United States Army has risen to the occasion as well. At more than 300 square miles, Fort Hood is one of the largest and most important military installations anywhere in the world. More than 35,000 of you are stationed here. And this is the only post in the United States capable of training two armored divisions at once.
More than a dozen commands are represented at this base — it’s amazing — including some of the most famed commands in the military, like III Corps, the “Phantom Warriors” —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — or the 1st Cav Division —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — or the 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You know, I just saw a great demonstration by the troopers of the 1st Cav. Very impressive. But then, you all are.
I mean, for 173 years, the “Brave Rifles” have been heard around the world. The 3rd Cav has served under legendary officers like General George Patton. Nearly two dozen troopers from the 3rd Cav have earned the Medal of Honor. It’s an amazing testament to their courage and to all of your professionalism.
In fact, history records the 1st Cav has played an indispensable role in every major conflict of the last century. During the Korean War, the 1st Cav was the first in Pyongyang. During the Vietnam War, they came to the rescue of Khe Sanh. And they covered 180 miles in just 24 hours in Operation Desert Storm.
III Corps is deployed all over the world — from South Korea to Europe to CENTCOM. Generations of heroes have come through Fort Hood. And since September 11, 2001, it’s been Fort Hood — it’s played a critical role in the global war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And that’s why it’s a special privilege for me to be able to stand before each of you today. Because this past Sunday was a great day for America. (Applause.) It’s amazing. Thanks to the courage and professionalism of our Special Forces and thanks to the decisiveness of your Commander-in-Chief, the world’s number-one terrorist leader was brought to justice. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. (Applause.)
Now, we’re grateful for everyone who made this possible. We’re grateful for our intelligence community and all those who made this mission a success. But I have to tell all of you, to join President Trump in the Situation Room, Saturday night, and watch in real time as U.S. Special Forces descended on al-Baghdadi’s compound, executing their mission the Commander-in-Chief gave them flawlessly made me proud to be an American. (Applause.) Our troops, as the President Trump said, were “incredible.”
And by taking out the leader of ISIS, we’ve made measurable progress in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. But as the President made clear, and 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. (Applause.)
I know I don’t have to tell any of you that the fight against terrorism goes on. And III Corps is playing a leading role in our 76-nation coalition to defeat ISIS. In fact, III Corps was there, when by March of this year, our Armed Forces claimed the last inch of territory under the black flag of ISIS. The ISIS caliphate’s territory was defeated. As I stand here today, hundreds of your brothers and sisters in arms are deployed in that region, even as we speak.
And the heroes of Fort Hood have, throughout the history of this institution, also paid the last full measure of devotion on foreign fields of battle. And as the nation will pause to remember next week, 10 years ago, on November 5, terror struck at the heart of this base when a former Army psychiatrist opened fire inside the Soldier Readiness Center, claiming the lives of 13 extraordinary Americans.
When I arrived last night, I stopped and paid my respects at the Fort Hood November 5 Memorial. I walked by the columns dedicated — each individual one — to the 13 men and women who fell that day. And I was deeply moved — moved by the tributes to all of those that were lost. Like Staff Sergeant Amy Krueger, who was preparing for a tour of duty in Afghanistan before that fateful day. Or Specialist Jason Dean Hunt, who had just gotten married two months before. Or Private Francheska Velez, who had just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq and was expecting her first child.
You know, the Bible tells us to mourn with those who mourn, and grieve with those who grieve. But we do not grieve like the rest who have no hope, for our faith gives us hope and heroes give us hope.
And as the 10th anniversary of that terrible day approaches next week, let me say, on behalf of the American people, to the families of our fallen and all you brothers- and sisters-in-arms: The American people are with you, and this nation will never forget or fail to honor the service and sacrifice of our heroes who fell on November 5, 2009. That is my solemn pledge. They and their families will remain in our prayers.
And to all of the men and women who work, and train, and deploy from Fort Hood, let me assure you: The American people stand with you every day and President Donald Trump will always have your back. (Applause.)
President Trump understands that our nation’s security depends on our military strength, and you are that strength.
That’s why, from the earliest days of this administration, this President has taken decisive action to make this military stronger than ever before. In fact, I truly believe, when you look at the record of the last three years, and you look at what this President has done for our armed forces and their families and for our veterans, I think President Donald Trump is the best friend the Armed Forces of the United States have ever had. (Applause.)
In our first year in office, President Trump signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, including the biggest pay raise for our armed forces in more than 10 years. And you deserve every penny. (Applause.)
Now, those investments wouldn’t be possible without strong partners on Capitol Hill. And there’s two of them who are with us today. I mentioned them briefly, but I wanted you to be able to show your thanks. So join me in thanking two great Americans who represent Fort Hood and this area in the Congress of the United States. But I’m telling you, I served in the Congress with one of them, and they are tenacious advocates for our armed forces and their families. Join me in thanking Congressman John Carter and Congressman Roger Williams. (Applause.) Thank you, *1429.
And with the renewed investment that this President and our allies in Congress have made possible, our army will soon have nearly 300 of the newest M1 Abrams tanks. And I know a lot of them are going to be coming right here to Fort Hood, so get ready for new and better equipment. (Applause.)
And with our renewed American strength, we are once again embracing our role as leader of the free world. Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, we’re standing with our allies and we’re standing up to our enemies. Our NATO Allies are now contributing more to our common defense than ever before.
And whether it’s the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, or the Taliban or al Qaeda, with your service and under this Commander-in-Chief, we’ve taken the fight to radical Islamic terrorists, on our terms, on their soil.
And whether it be in the global war on terror or manning the ramparts of freedom in Europe or the Asia-Pacific, the men and women of the United States Army have been the tip of the spear, and you always will be.
You know, as I stand before you today, it’s — I can tell you from my heart, it’s always humbling for me to have the opportunity to address the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States because, you know, for me, my life didn’t take me into service in our armed forces. But I am proud to say I am the son of a United States Army combat veteran who served in Korea, Lieutenant Edward J. Pence. (Applause.) My dad came home with some medals on chest, but he always told us kids the heroes in the Korean War were the ones that didn’t get to come home.
So I was raised in a family that understood the service that you have. And I don’t mind mentioning, I’m also the proud father of a United States Marine. (Applause.) So maybe it’s altogether fitting that I’m here, as a family member of those who served and are serving, and also just simply on behalf of a grateful nation, to make sure you all know how much the American people appreciate everything that you do. It’s my privilege to speak a word of gratitude to each of you on their behalf.
But on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, let me offer you this admonition: I want to urge all of you, in these challenging times across the wider world: Be vigilant, mind your mission, respect the unified chain of command, keep taking care of each other, and never doubt that every decision you make matters to the American people and to the security of this nation. Give America your best every day. The American people are counting on you. And given the long and storied history of III Corps and Fort Hood, we know we can.
So thank you again for the warm welcome and thank you for your service. I say that on behalf of a grateful nation, because we all know that your service comes with sacrifice.
And the truth is, you’ve stepped forward in a calling where you’ve decided to count our lives as more important than your own. And in generations that have gone before and those that payed the last full measure of devotion, you know the solider does not bear the sword in vain. And the American people understand the risks that you take and embrace every day.
But as you do that, as you prepare, as you deploy, I want to assure you that you do not bear that burden alone. Wherever you are called to serve, wherever you are deployed, I promise you, you will carry with you the strength and pride of this nation and the support of the American people. You will carry with you the confidence of your Commander-in-Chief. And I also know you will carry with you the prayers of millions of Americans.
Millions of Americans pray every day for all of you who serve and defend this nation. We pray in the ancient words of the psalmist, my prayer today, that no harm would befall you, no disaster would come near your tent, and that as you serve here and around the world, that “His faithfulness will [always] be your shield and rampart.” I know that prayer and that ancient sentiment are on the hearts of people across this country every day. Never doubt it.
And as I leave you here today, I know, as long as we have men and women with the courage to serve and step forward and stand on freedom’s ramparts, as long as we have heroes willing to put their lives on the line for us and for our freedom, as long as we have patriots like all of you, we will protect this nation, we will defend our freedom, and we will forge a future of security, prosperity, and peace for ourselves and for generations to come. And we will keep safe this last, best hope of the Earth — the United States of America. “This We’ll Defend!” So thank you. (Applause.)
God bless you. God bless our armed forces. And God bless America.