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Indian Treaty Room
2:16 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  How about a round of applause for these great guardians up here?  Aren’t they really something?  Great job.  (Applause.)

Well, today it is my great honor on behalf of the First Family here on National Military Appreciation Month to welcome so many heroes to this special place.  And on behalf of the President of the United States of America, welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)

Also thank you to Secretary Shulkin for that great introduction.  Thank you for the job you’re doing day in and day out to help America’s heroes and to meet the obligation that we’ve made to our veterans.  Would you join me in thanking the Secretary of Veterans of Affairs for bringing about transformational change at the VA?  (Applause.)

And also can I just invite you to give a big round of applause to the Second Lady of the United States of America, my wife of 31 years and a Marine Corps mom, Karen Pence?  (Applause.)
It’s deeply humbling for me to be here today with all the guardians who are gathered here, with the members of Honor Flight Northern Colorado.  I’d especially like you to give a round of applause to Colonel Stanley Cass, the President of this great organization.  Stanley, where are you?  Great job.  (Applause.)

The men and women who’ve worn the uniform of the United States are our most cherished citizens.  You are the patriots of the highest order.  You stood up.  You stepped forward to protect our nation and the values that we hold dear.

Now, many of you served in Vietnam where amidst the jungles and the rice paddies you stood tall and proud, your image seared into the mind of the American people, an everlasting sign of unwavering courage in the unquenchable spirit of the American people.  To all of our Vietnam veterans, let me say, welcome home.  (Applause.)

Also many of you stepped ashore in Korea, where you fought to protect the freedom of that ancient land and establish a foundation of peace and prosperity that exists today.  My father was one of you.  You heard Secretary Shulkin mention it.  My dad wore the uniform, served in combat, Korea.  I have to tell you it was deeply humbling for me to stand along the DMZ and look out over the landscape and have General Brooks tell me that right over those few hills was Mount Baldy and Pork Chop Hill where my dad had fought.  Let me tell you what, I can attest having seen it firsthand, our Korean War veterans in the room won the freedom of millions of people of Korea, and it prospers to this day in South Korea.  Thank you for your service.  (Applause.)

And today as we celebrate the 72nd anniversary of V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day, it’s an honor and privilege — more than I can say — to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War Two.

You served your country in a way and at a time that challenged each one of you to step up the perseveration of our way of life.  With you in the vanguard, America was able to stand as a beacon for freedom.  Our nation marshaled every ounce of our strength to save freedom across the Atlantic, across the Pacific, and across the very world.  The sons and daughters of America, and, indeed, all who call themselves free will remember your names for eternity, until the world stops turning.  To all of you who won a victory in World War Two, you have the undying thanks and gratitude of the American people.  (Applause.)

You know, it’s especially humbling for me to stand before you today because I was not a soldier.  As you already heard, I’m the son of a soldier, and I’m the proud father of a United States Marine.  (Applause.)  And I must tell you, to stand before so many who stepped forward in times of great trial in the life of this nation, and served with great distinction and great selfless courage is deeply inspiring to us all.

And let me also say, even though some of you back there have hair the same color as mine — (laughter) — I want you to say on this Honor Flight, it’s not how I see you.  I know, in the truth of it, that you went to war as boys and you became men, and those men won freedom, and we will never, ever forget your service to this nation.  God bless you all.  (Applause.)

So let me recognize just a few of the heroes in the room, although every single one of you wearing those hats that mark your service are heroes, and that’s what these Honor Flights are really all about.  You know, the old book says, if you owe debts, pay debts.  If honor, then honor.  If respect, then respect.  And all the people that makes these Honor Flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you.  But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.

People like Lieutenant Colonel William Thousand (ph), himself a United States Marine who fought for America for more than a quarter century in the Pacific during World War Two, in Korea, and in Vietnam.  Is he here with us today?  Let’s give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I think of others like Colonel Edwin Bogey (ph), of the United States Air Force who flew for freedom in the 8th Fighter-Bomb Wing from 1950 to 1978.  Or Private David Fager (ph), U.S. Army, wore a green beret and now wears a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and 12 gleaming medals on his chest.  These are all veterans I’ve had the privilege to know of, to know their experience.

The truth is, no matter where you served, every last one of you fought on the frontlines of freedom.  And because of that, because of you, freedom endures to this very day.  You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us.  And on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.  (Applause.)

But know that you have more than just our thanks.  Under President Donald Trump, you a have a leader — a tireless defender of our American military and our veterans.  A Commander-in-Chief who I promise you is fighting every single day for all of you to keep America safe and keep our promises to those who have served in the uniform of the United States.

You know, as the proud father of an American servicemember, it’s the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who is so committed to the men and women of our armed forces, to their families, to our veterans.

You know, it was about a month ago I had the privilege to stand with President Trump as he welcomed wounded warriors to the White House East Room.  As he looked out at those courageous men and women, he told them that they had, in his words, carved their place into the history of our country and into our hearts.  And so have you.

You know, that’s why President Donald Trump has taken decisive action, as Secretary Shulkin just described, to defend those who defended us.  The President has said from very early on, even when he was a candidate, that our veterans deserve the best care in the world, the finest care America can provide.  Just over a week ago, President Trump signed an executive order to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is as efficient, effective, and accountable as any great healthcare provider in America.  We’re going to give those who served most the best healthcare system in the world.  (Applause.)

And last month, President Trump signed into law the Veterans Choice Act to give our heroes the choices they deserve for world-class healthcare.  You know, the President said it out on the campaign trail — I was with him, it was early in the campaign — and he said, here’s the deal, we’re going to reform the VA and make sure that every veteran has the benefits that they have earned in the uniform of the United States.  And if a VA clinic or VA hospital can’t give you the best healthcare that you deserve in real time, we’re going to give you the opportunity to go across the street and get the healthcare that you need.  And the President just signed a bill that will do just that.  (Applause.)

You know, I can tell you firsthand, President Trump is a man of his word and he’s a man of action.  This President is a strong leader.  He’s putting America first each and every day.  He’s defending our veterans, and he’s also taking a strong stand for America’s rightful place as the leader of the free world.  He’s been fighting every day since the outset of this administration to give our armed forces the resources and the support that they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe.

The President’s leadership was on full display at the end of last week.  If you didn’t notice it, President Trump actually managed to sign into law legislation that, in the balance of this fiscal year will increase defense spending by $21 billion.  (Applause.)

This is the biggest investment in military readiness in nearly a decade, and we’re just getting started.  This was a victory for the American people and for our national security.  And it was also a victory on policy.  For more than the last six years, Congress has actually required that any increase any increase in funding for military spending should be matched with an increase in spending in other areas of government.  It was in many ways like Congress kind of held military spending in abeyance until there could be more spending on more government programs.  They called it the parity rule, and it actually contributed to a neglect of our armed forces at a critical time of mounting threats around the globe.  But no longer.

Thanks to President Trump’s strong leadership, national defense is now coming first.  And we were able to increase defense spending with the largest investment in years without requiring an additional increase in domestic spending putting an additional burden on taxpayers.  That’s real progress for taxpayers and our military.  (Applause.)

But, friends, the President has only begun to fight.  President Trump in the budget that will be considered this fall has actually proposed one of the largest increases in defense spending since the days of President Ronald Reagan.  Under his leadership, I know the strongest fighting force in the history of the world will be stronger still.  And I want to promise you — President Trump will not rest and will not relent until we at last give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources they need to accomplish their mission, defend our nation, and come home safe.  That’s our pledge to all of you.  (Applause.)

President Trump has committed to rebuild our military to restore the arsenal of democracy.  As history will attest, when America is strong, the American people are safe, and the world is more secure.

I was reflecting on this just last month.  On behalf of the President, as I mentioned, I traveled to a frontier of freedom on the Korean Peninsula, a land where my father had served in uniform.  Sixty-five years ago, a young Edward J. Pence left his home in Illinois and crossed the vast Pacific, like so many of you in this room did.

He was a second lieutenant at the time, 45th Infantry Division of the United States Army, landed on the shores of South Korea, rifle in his hand.  And I stood, as I mentioned, at the Demilitarized Zone.  I looked out at the landscape where Dad and his fellow soldiers had fought and fought valiantly to earn the freedom of the people of South Korea.

Now, my dad got a Bronze Star.  In fact, I arrived in Korea on the very day — didn’t we, dear? — on the very day that sixty-five years ago to the day my dad had had a Bronze Star pinned on his chest.  But when my three brothers and I and two sisters were growing up, that medal that now I proudly display in my office in the White House was in the drawer.  And the truth was that my dad didn’t consider himself a hero.  Any time you’d ask him about the war, he’d say the heroes were the ones that didn’t come home.

And there’s a burden that those of you that have seen combat bear that I’ll never fully understand, but I respect.  See, my dad got to come home.  He got to marry his sweetheart, got to raise six irascible kids, see them all get an education, and go on.  Now, Dad has been gone 29 years now, but I’ll always have the sense that over the course of his life, my dad never really quite understood why he got to come home and some of his closest friends didn’t.  That’s the burden that those of you that have worn the uniform bear.  You see the sacrifices firsthand.  It’s not statistics, it’s friends.  It’s not ranks, it’s relationships long gone, but voices and faces never forgotten.  It’s part of the burden that you bear, as those that have served in the uniform of the United States.  And it’s a burden that on behalf of President Donald Trump, I’m here to honor today and to pledge to each one of you that those that are wearing the uniform today will never have a better friend in the Oval Office than President Donald Trump.

In this administration, we’re going to work and work hard each and every day to ensure that our military personnel have the resources they need to accomplish their mission in their time, as you had the resources to accomplish your mission in your time.

We’re going to see to our veterans to make sure that the promises that you earned in uniform are kept by the American people.  And we’re never going to hesitate, and this small moment today here on the White House grounds I hope is evidence of that — we’re never going to hesitate to honor those who’ve served, to pay a debt of honor and gratitude to all of you who in your moment, in your time said, yes, to America.  And because you said, yes, freedom prevails to this day.

So on behalf of the President of the United States of America, I say from my heart, thank you for your service.  God bless you all and God bless the United States.  (Applause.)

2:33 P.M. EDT