9:28 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: To all the heroes who are gathered here, to their families, to the patrons of this great project, members of Congress, on behalf of my wife, Karen, it is my great honor standing beside the President of the United States and the First Lady to welcome you all to the White House. (Applause.)
We’re grateful to have so many who are of such great consequence to our armed forces with us today, as well as those who serve our veterans — our Secretary David Shulkin, Secretary Ryan Zinke — who serve in this Cabinet. But on behalf of the President and the First Family, a special thank you to Lieutenant General Michael Linnington and Deven Schei. The Wounded Warrior Project is a source of great comfort to our veterans across the country, and it is an inspiration to the nation. (Applause.)
Since 2003, the Wounded Warrior Project has faithfully served men and women who have been injured in the defense of freedom and paid a small debt of gratitude that this nation will never be able to fully repay.
The White House has hosted the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride every year since 2008, and the President and the First Family, and Karen and I, are so proud to be a part of continuing this important tradition. In fact, we’re bikers, and Karen and I hope someday to join the Wounded Warrior bikers ride on a sunny day in the future. (Laughter.)
From the bottom of my heart, let me just say thank you for your service. And also, let me say as the proud parents of a United States Marine, it is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who cares so deeply about the men and women of our armed forces and the veterans of this country. (Applause.)
So now let me say to all the heroes who are with us and their families, it is my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce this morning your Commander-in-Chief, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I want to thank you, Vice President Pence, for your wonderful introduction but maybe more importantly for your incredible service to our country. You have done an incredible job. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Melania and I are deeply honored to join you all today, and to stand here among real heroes. These are real heroes.
Secretary Shulkin and Secretary Zinke, right in front of us, working so hard. I want to thank you for joining us as we pay tribute to America’s warriors — and I call them America’s winners, because they are winners — and mark this year’s Soldiers Ride.
The Soldier Ride has been very, very unique. Lieutenant General Linnington, Deven Schei, and all of the dedicated people at the Wounded Warrior Project, thank you for organizing this event. Really great job. An amazing event. And thank you for serving those who have so bravely served our nation.
On behalf of the country, let me extend to all of the riders and your families the warmest possible welcome into, I call it, the People’s House. This is the People’s House. It’s the White House, but it’s the People’s House. And I thank you all very much, especially all of the folks that are on stage with me. You are something very, very amazing and special. Thank you. (Applause.)
You’ve risked all that you have, all that you possess, to keep our people safe and our democracy secure. And we’re going to keep it going, folks, for a long time, that I can tell you. In your honor, we’re going to keep it going.
You’ve earned our freedom with your sweat and your blood and your incredible sacrifice. We salute you, we salute your service, and we salute the flag you have so courageously protected. We love our flag. Thank you. (Applause.)
The story of today’s event is a story about America and the strength of her citizens. In 2004, a young man working in a tavern in the East End of Long Island — I know that end of Long Island very well — was moved by a desire to help his fellow Americans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. So Chris Carney had an idea. With the support of friends, Chris rode a bike across the country to raise funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project. Great people. He biked 4,000 miles — wow — where’s Chris? Where is Chris? Chris, stand up. 4,000 — man. (Applause.) Wow. And raised, at the time, one million dollars.
This act of devotion to our heroes inspired others. And since that first year, the Soldier Ride — it’s why we’re here today — has become an annual event that unites and uplifts our nation. President Bush hosted the first Soldier Ride at the White House in 2008. And I am proud to continue this incredible tradition, and we’re going to keep it going for a long time. I should have it for about seven more years. (Applause.)
Most of all, I’m proud to stand here today, before all of you, and to share with the nation the depth of our gratitude and the height of our total admiration for these folks, for our veterans, for anybody in uniform. And that includes our great men and women in blue. And I want to thank all of them, because they are just incredible people.
Each of you has forged in battle the sacred bonds of loyalty that link our people together. Our country, our values, our very way of life, endures because of you, and it endures because brave Americans raise up in every generation — and they really do — they rise to the occasion like nobody can rise to an occasion — to fight for this country and to defend its citizens with every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears in their bodies.
Our way of life continues because of men and women who are willing to sacrifice anything and everything to protect their fellow warriors, and to protect all of us. You have not only poured out the blood — and all of your blood, in some cases — for this country, but you have poured out the love from your souls and from your hearts. Each of you has carved your place into the history of this incredible nation and, I can tell you, into our hearts.
It is that love which brings us here today, which binds us together as one people, and which offers us the hope and promise of a future that is safe and secure and free. With one grateful heart, and one mighty spirit, the people of our nation thank you — they really thank you — and embrace you as you carry on this magnificent Soldier Ride. Good job. Good job.
May God bless you, may God bless our incredible country, may God bless our warriors, and let’s have a great ride. Because I’ll tell you what — I couldn’t do it. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you. Congratulations. (Applause.) Congratulations.
9:38 A.M. EDT