Bripac, Madrid, Spain
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. President, Madam Minister, General, officers, ladies and gentlemen, it is true that I very much wanted to be here today to pay respects to such a group of warriors who have stood side by side with American warriors in Afghanistan.
I also want to pay my respects to your husbands and wives, your mothers and fathers, your brothers and sisters, for there is an old expression, those also serve who stand and wait. And as they wait while you sacrifice on behalf of the Afghan people and the people of Spain for their safety, they deserve our respect and honor as well.
As a father of a son whose unit just returned from a year in Iraq, we know their anxiety. And as a father with a son who served in the United States military, I want you all to know that American soldiers, given the opportunity, would choose to stand shoulder to shoulder with these brave units that are in front of me today.
On behalf of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and on behalf of the American people, I thank you for the contribution you are making to the peace and stability around the world. We applaud Spain for taking the lead in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, maintaining stabilization forces in Bosnia, countering Somali piracy, and committing to launch the Guardia Civil-led border security training in Iraq as part of NATO's training mission and to support the EU's training mission in Somalia.
We Americans know that this kind of leadership sometimes carries a heavy price. We also want to express our condolences for the tragic loss of four of your servicemen who were providing relief and security to the people of Haiti in their time of greatest need.
I have been to Afghanistan many times, not with a rifle on my shoulder, but with a clear knowledge of how formidable the terrain is and how difficult your mission is, which only makes me feel a greater admiration for those of you who have been there not once, but twice, three, four, five times and are willing to go back again. You are warriors.
As NATO allies, we are working together to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, to fight insurgents who would destabilize not only Afghanistan but the region, and to develop institutions and Afghan security forces so that the Afghanis can take the responsibility for their own future, as your General said, so they can take ownership of this mission.
Make no mistake about it, we understand this mission has required real sacrifice, especially from you and your families. And President Obama and I feel that a nation has only one sacred obligation, truly sacred obligation, and that is to care and prepare for those who we send into harm's way and to care for them upon their return.
On September 11th, and on March 11th, our citizens suffered at the hands of violent extremists who planned and plotted their carnage from the very region you are returning. We have an obligation, an obligation to our fellow citizens to stop them, to protect the people we serve. And you, one of the most elite units in the military, are meeting that obligation with duty, honor, and pride.
I do realize my request to visit you today has caused you a little extra duty. It is always a doubtful privilege when you're told the Vice President and President are coming. That makes for a lot of work. But I wanted to come not only to tell you how much I admire you, not simply to thank you, but to tell you my fellow citizens, my fellow countrymen are in your debt. Our country is proud and grateful to be partners with all of you, with Spain, a partnership we are committed to strengthening and deepening in the years ahead.
So may God bless you and may God protect you, and I look forward to seeing you again. I'm honored to be here. Thank you.