REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AND MRS. JILL BIDEN AT THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF'S INAUGURAL BALL
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VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Hello, everyone. What an honor, what an honor, not because I'm vice president-elect. I guess I'm not elect anymore; I'm actually the vice president. (Cheers.) I tell you what, man, it's getting hard to get used to, you know what I mean? (Cheers.)
Hey, folks, it's an honor to be here. (Audio break.) Your courage, your integrity, your dedication literally is an inspiration to Jill and me and, I think, to all Americans.
You know, I came to the United States Senate as a kid when I was 29 years old. And what's happened? I'm no longer 29. (Laughter.) When you see my wife, you'll think she is. (Cheers.)
But ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, my admiration from the day I arrived here -- has literally, not figuratively, drove every single year that I've been in Washington, D.C., as a United States senator and now a vice president of the United States -- I want you to know -- (cheers) -- I want you to know that I have a special place in my heart for all of you. I've followed you guys all over the world. You're the bravest, best equipped, most competent military in the history of mankind. (Cheers, applause.)
And you know, although I guess technically I speak to you tonight as vice president of the United States of America, and that is an honor -- that's an honor -- but I also speak to you as a father who has a son stationed in Iraq. (Cheers.) And I can tell you -- I can tell you, without reservation, that is a greater honor than being vice president of the United States of America. (Cheers.)
I want to acknowledge -- I want to acknowledge the joint chiefs that are here tonight. General Casey, who was kind enough to -- (cheers) -- kind enough to escort me in. But I also wanted to acknowledge the commanders who couldn't be here tonight. My good and old friend General David Petraeus, CENTCOM. (Cheers.)
I also want to acknowledge a fellow I just had dinner with, about three or four nights ago, spent a little time with him, General -- these are all generals, you know, and admirals -- Odierno in Iraq. We spent some time with him.
David McKiernan; I just came back from Afghanistan, hanging out with him. Bantz Craddock, European Command, NATO. William "Kip" Ward, AFRICOM. Timothy Keating, Pacific Command, Admiral Keating. And Stavridis, the Southern Command.
And I just want you to know, I am -- all of you, all of these commanders you have have trained you brilliantly. I've been everywhere that you've been the last 30 years, from Brcko to Pristina to Kunar Valley, Kirkuk. I've been trying to follow you all around. It's hard to keep up with you.
It's hard to keep up with you. But everywhere I've been, I've been astounded. I've literally been astounded by what the young women and men in uniform have done.
You know -- you know, you're not only -- we're the only army in the world, only navy in the world, only marine corps, only military in the world -- (audience members shouting) -- that gives such incredible responsibility to two-stripers. I've been places, watching young kids make decisions in the midst of crisis, that I've just been astounded. Astounded. And it's no wonder why we've prevailed so often. It's because how well trained and how much faith we have in every member of our military.
You know, you use your authority -- the other thing I know you all know, assembled in this magnificent building, that most -- many Americans may not know: Every single, solitary time there's a crisis, every crisis abroad, we not only ask you to be warriors, we ask you to be roadbuilders. We not only ask you to be warriors, we ask you to build schools. We not only ask you to be warriors, we ask you to build goodwill. You're the most remarkable group of women and men in the entire United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)
Tonight I'm going to be visiting a lot of balls. I just want you to know the thing that frightens me most is not getting up here speaking to you all; I'm going to have to stand in that circle and dance in a minute. (Cheers.) This is hard for me.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm particularly honored and humbled by the folks who are about to join us by satellite tonight. There's Sergeant Major Frank Leota, who I can tell -- Sergeant Major, there you are. (Cheers, applause.)
(The following appearances are via satellite from Tikrit, Iraq.)
SGT. MAJOR FRANK LEOTA: Tropic Lightning.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Tell us where you are and who you're with. There's a six-second delay.
SGT. MAJOR LEOTA: Good evening. I'm Command Sergeant Major Frank Leota, the MND North, Multinational Division North, and Task Force Lightning Command sergeant major, out here in Tikrit, Iraq. And I just want to say thanks for allowing us the opportunity to partake in this historic event. (Cheers, applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, look, Sergeant Major, I've got almost the entire command structure of the United States military with me tonight, and -- and I have a little bit of a relationship with your new commander in chief. (Cheers.)
So, Sergeant Major, anything you want me to tell them tonight, anything you need? (Laughs.) (Laughter.) This is your chance, Sergeant Major.
SGT. MAJOR LEOTA: Well, sir, that's a very good question. But on behalf of Major General Caslen, the task force commander for Task Force Lightning, and the airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmens, we just want to congratulate you and thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Sergeant Major --
SGT. MAJOR LEOTA: I'm going to pass the mike on to the Navy and the Air Force. So we'll start off with the Air Force to ask any of their questions.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Sergeant Major, I've been over your way I think it's now 12 or 13 times. And the bad news, I'm coming back.
But let's hear from you. Who do we have now?
AIRMAN 1ST CLASS OPPERMAN (sp): This is Airman 1st Class Opperman (ph), 732nd ESFS.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it's a pleasure to meet you. (Cheers.) You're on television. Anything you want to say?
AIRMAN OPPERMAN (sp): I want to say hi to my family, my husband.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I tell you what. I'm going to let them do the talking.
Go ahead, sir.
LT. CMDR. SEDGE RIPSON (ph): Good evening, Vice President and Joint Chiefs of Staff. We just want to thank you from Tikrit, Iraq, sir. This is Lieutenant Commander Sedge Ripson (ph). I'm from Raymond, Mississippi. And on behalf of everyone here, we just want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak with you, and we look forward to the next four years. (Cheers, applause.)
SGT. MAJOR NICK ROZUMNY: Hey, Mr. Vice President. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Sergeant Major Nick Rozumny of the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas. We're the guests of the Tropic Lightning today. (Applause.)
We look forward to the next four years as well. We look forward to carrying out the mission and working by, with and through the Iraqi people to help them along.
Thank you all. (Cheers, applause.)
STAFF SGT. DANGERFIELD (sp): Good evening, sir.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Good evening.
STAFF SGT. DANGERFIELD (sp): Good evening, sir. This is Staff Sergeant Dangerfield (sp) from Farmerville, Louisiana. (Cheers.) I'm very humbled and excited to be here and can't wait for President Barack Obama -- (cheers) -- to lead the way forward.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, he's coming. He's on his way. (Cheers, applause.)
SGT. BLISS (sp): Mr. Vice President, Sergeant Bliss (sp) coming from Kennewick, Washington. I'd just like to say hi to my family, my wife and my kids back in Hawaii. (Cheers, applause.)
SPC BERRY (sp): Good evening, Mr. Vice President. This is Specialist Bill Berry (sp) from the HHC -- (inaudible) -- 25th Infantry Division. I'd just like to say hi to my family in Texas and in Sebring, Florida. (Cheers.)
And congratulations on your appointment to vice president and looking forward to the -- (audio break) -- you and President Obama.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you.
MASTER SGT. EVERETT (sp): Good evening, sir. This is Master Sergeant Everett (sp) from Moyock, North Carolina, stationed out of 504th BSFB of Fort Hood, Texas.
I just want to say we're happy to be here and we look forward to whatever you have in store for us. (Laughter, cheers.)
PFC ALEXANDER: Hello, sir. How are you? This is PFC Alexander and I'm from good, sweet Alabama. (Cheers.) I'm stationed with the Tropic Lightning out of Hawaii.
And I want to say we've been listening to that music for a while, so all I want is someone to go out there and dance with me when they play the Electric Slide. (Laughter, cheers.)
CHIEF MICHAEL MANNING (sp): Good evening, sir. My name is Senior Chief Michael Manning (sp) from Hollywood, Florida. I'm the NCOIC of the operations department for EOD Mobile Unit 1 here in Tikrit. And we just want to say congratulations. Thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you.
PETTY OFFICER NABB (sp): Good evening, sir. Petty Officer Nabb (sp) from Jackson, California, representing -- (inaudible).
SPC GRAY (sp): This is Specialist Gray (sp) from Greenville, Texas. I just want to say I'm very honored to be here and I can't say anything better than what everyone else has said here. I can't wait for the next four years to go by. (Laughter.)
STAFF SGT. DOM (sp): Hello, sir. This is Staff Sergeant Dom (sp). I'm from Fresno, California. I just want to congratulate you and President Obama. I'm excited for the next four years and excited to serve under you two gentlemen.
I want to say hi to my family in Fresno, California, and that I love them and I miss them. (Cheers, applause.)
SGT. MAJOR LEOTA: Well, sir, that's the crew here from Task Force Lightning.
Again, keep all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marine and Coast Guardsmen in everyone's prayers, as our wounded warriors are also out throughout the continental United States, also, getting healed, close along with their families. (Cheers, applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Let me thank you.
SGT. MAJOR LEOTA: And, sir, we will take any questions. It's great to have you up here in Kirkuk, great dinner, and we will welcome you back at any time.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Sergeant Major, I'm coming back. But hopefully, by the time I get back, which will be pretty soon, we'll bring a whole lot of you home. (Cheers, applause.)
SGT. MAJOR LEOTA: Tropic Lightning.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Sergeant Major and all -- all in Iraq and all the wonderful glittering crowd that's here tonight, let me tell you something, folks. Your service is only now becoming appreciated. We've had two wars, but -- the military has been at war, but America has not.
And it's time that -- it's time that everyone understands the sacrifice you've made, especially those who -- you know, folks, we only have one -- only one sacred obligation as a nation, only one sacred obligation, and that's to care for those who we send to war and care for those who we bring home from war. (Cheers, applause.)
And I commit to all of you, the men and women of the United States military, that this administration will keep that sacred commitment. We appreciate what you've done. We appreciate what you're doing. And we also appreciate the incredible sacrifices your families are making and have made and will continue to make.
You are the greatest asset and resource America has. I am truly humbled -- truly humbled to have the opportunity to speak to so many of you.
And I'd like now to introduce you to my wife, Jill, who is with me tonight. (Cheers, applause.)
Jill, are you back there?
Ladies and gentlemen, I might not be able to dance, but I've got a hell of an eye, don't I? (Cheers, applause.)
MRS. BIDEN: I would just like to say, to all of you, thank you so much for your service. You will always be in our prayers. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you, folks. Godspeed and may God protect our troops.
Thank you all.