President Obama high-fived a bunch of Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier riders “as they began the next 17-mile leg of their journey by doing a few loops around the South Lawn,” according to the White House pool report. He also used the occasion to highlight the importance of policy over rhetoric, “I will keep fighting to make sure you and your families get the care and treatment and benefits that you have earned and deserve.”
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki introduced the President, who then gave props to Vice President Joe Biden for all of his work on behalf of our troops and veterans.
The President said, “Now, I also want to mention that our Vice President here has been relentless in his support, along with our spouses, Michelle and Jill Biden, for military families. And we’re very proud of everything that Joe has done.”
Obama said this is one of his favorite events of the year, “because those who participate are such an incredible inspiration to me and to our country.”
To all the riders, you look outstanding, especially after biking 17 miles yesterday. You’re doing another 17 miles tomorrow, another 17 miles after that — all told, nearly 60 miles. Today we wanted to come cheer you on. And I think we’ve got some folks from the Army here, is that right? (Hooah!) And the Navy. (Hooyah!) Air Force. (Applause.) Marines. (Oorah!) Oh, that was good. (Laughter.) Coast Guard. (Applause.) And we’ve got some extraordinary families here today. (Applause.) Yay, families.
President Obama acknowledged that many of the wounded warriors were riding with the added challenge of injuries, “Many of you are recovering from devastating injuries. Some of you have had to learn the basics all over again — how to stand again, how to walk again, how to run again. And now you’re here today because that’s what Soldier Ride is all about — seeing each other through the finish line.”
The President gave a shout out to several wounded warriors, and then said that these are the folks who inspire him, and the rest of the country, “(I)t’s men and women like John and Louis and Cedric and Jeanette and all of you who make the ride so special for all of us, because you inspire us. You inspire the country, some of whom will be out cheering along your ride. You inspire me with your courage, your resolve, your resilience, your tenacity, your optimism. It makes me proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. And Michelle and I treasure every moment that we get to spend with you and your families.”
Flag waving and bumper stickers are a nice show of support, but what our troops and veterans really need are policy prescriptions and cutting down the wait log for the VA. To this end, President Obama has fought tooth and nail, with the support of the Democratic Party (and sometimes the Republican Party, but not often enough) for veteran benefits, “Every day I have the honor of serving as this country’s Commander-in-Chief. And as long as I have that honor, I will keep fighting to make sure you and your families get the care and treatment and benefits that you have earned and deserve. When people ask of you to serve your country, to give your all to make your sacrifices, you’ve raised your hands. You’ve stepped up. You’ve held up your end of the bargain. And it’s especially now, as we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, after having ended over a decade of war, that we are standing up for you. Our obligations to our veterans endure for your entire lives. That’s our mission. That’s why we’re here not just during this ride, but all year long.”
The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden have been tireless in their support of our troops and their families as well. Our military families’ sacrifices are too often overlooked. As I have pointed out before, too many Americans have no idea what goes on with military families. I urge people to check up on their neighbors and friends whose spouses are serving and who are dealing with injuries from service.
Really supporting our troops means supporting our veterans, too. From offering to care for a pet while someone is on tour to helping a neighbor with chores while their spouse recovers or serves, there are many ways we can all pitch in. You don’t have to agree with the Iraq War, or with war in general, to support our troops. It’s a way to remind us all of our humanity, and to get outside of our ideology and into the real business of helping our fellow man.
The WWPSR was started by a bartender, Chris Carney, who got the idea to ride his bike across America to support wounded warriors. The President Obama gave an official starting countdown, then, per pool, “fired off an air horn that he said ‘looks like bug spray.’” That sounds just like him.
Image: Photo: JIM WATSON, AFP/Getty Images