Speaking from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, President Obama delivered remarks defending his pledge to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS.” But he also spoke confidently about, and reaffirmed his support for, the people who need and deserve it most: U.S. service members and their families.
“I came here to say the same thing I’ve been saying to troops across this country and around the world,” he began. “And that is thank you.”
“I want to thank you for all your service, I want to thank you for your sacrifice,” he intoned. “As your commander in chief, I could not be prouder of each and every one of you.”
Quite rightly, he reminded his audience of military personnel that the “9/11 generation” has met every challenge handed down to them with both acceptance and professionalism.
And while terrorist groups like ISIL–and their al Qaeda affiliates–do not directly threaten America’s national security at this time, they could “if left unchecked,” he said.
Which is why, almost as if he was speaking directly to the terrorists himself, he delivered the most stirring and rousing line of his oration.
“Our reach is long, if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven–we will find you eventually,” he averred to wild applause.
“But this–I want to emphasize–is not and will not be America’s fight alone,” he continued. “This is why we’ve spent the last several weeks building [a coalition].”
“Forty countries so far have offered some assistance,” he added. “And meanwhile, nearly 30 nations have [pledged to help] with humanitarian relief.”
That is to say, after nearly 14 years of war, it’s time for other nations as well as Iraqi citizens to step up to the plate.
“The point is, we cannot do for the Iraqi people what they must do for themselves,” he said. “But this is an effort that calls on America’s unique abilities and responsibilities to lead. In a world that’s more crowded and connected, it is America that has the unique capabilities to mobilize against an organization like ISIL.”
He thus turned to the inescapable fact that the safety of the nation relies chiefly upon a small yet dedicated warrior class of men and women who sometimes do not get the recognition they have earned.
“To all the service members here and around the world, we ask a lot of you,” he said softly. “And any mission involves risk. And any mission separates you from your families. And sending our soldiers into harm’s way is the hardest decision I make–nothing else comes close.”
“I do it,” he added, “only because you are the best at what it is that you do."
“Only 1 percent of Americans may wear the uniform and shoulder the weight of special responsibilities that you do,” he continued. “But 100 percent of Americans need to support you and your family–100 percent.”