Obama Leads Troop Rally at Osan
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Terri Barriere
Special to American Forces Press Service
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea, Nov. 19, 2009 More than 1,500 airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines from throughout South Korea had the opportunity to hear President Barack Obama speak, for the first time in Korea, at a troop rally here today.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with U.S. servicemembers at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 19, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Obama said he stopped here en route home from a weeklong Asia trip to reaffirm the enduring alliance between the U.S. and South Korean governments.
"This is an alliance rooted in sheer sacrifice, common values, mutual interests and a mutual respect," he said. "And as we look to the future, with a shared vision of our alliance in the 21st century, I made it clear America's commitment to the Republic of Korea will never waver and our alliance has never been stronger."
The president noted that though the reason for his visit was business, it would not be complete without visiting the troops. He had a message to deliver.
"I couldn't come to the Republic of Korea without coming to see you and delivering a simple message -- a message of thanks to you and your families, because of all the privileges of serving as president, I have no greater honor than that of serving as commander in chief of the finest military the world has ever known," he said.
The security that allows families to live in peace in both Asia and America, the prosperity that allows them to pursue their dreams and the freedoms they all cherish have not been accidents of history, the president said.
"It is no exaggeration to say the progress that we see, not just in Korea, are provided by generations of American men and women in uniform, and has transformed the lives of millions of people," Obama said. "Many people have to wait a lifetime to see the difference they made, but you see the life of your service, and you have only to look around. Like generations before you, you've helped keep the peace, … working with the wonderful people of the Republic of Korea as they forged a reliable alliance."
The president said that the alliance has seen South Korea become one of America's largest trade partners, and he added that the country’s great prosperity and growth are a part of the armed forces legacy.
"Backed by our alliance, the Republic of Korea has taken on a leadership role -- promoting security and stability around the world, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the waters off the Horn of Africa and Eurasia, helping prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction - and that makes us all more secure," he said. "And that too, is part of your legacy."
However, he noted, that legacy did not come without sacrifice, a price the president said he recognizes few Americans will ever truly be able to understand.
"I want to assure you that every American appreciates what you do," Obama said. "I say to you today, on behalf of the American people, ‘Thank you for your service. We honor your sacrifices, and just as you fulfilled your responsibilities to your nation, your nation will fulfill its responsibilities to you.’"
Before wrapping up his visit, Obama thanked Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, U.S. Forces Korea commander, for working to normalize tours in Korea, a feat he said will help to provide more stability and security in the region.
"This is a day that stands out in history for not only Osan, but the Republic of Korea," said Air Force Col. Thomas Deale, 51st Fighter Wing commander. "President Obama made it a point to come to Korea and commend the servicemembers here for what they do best - being ready to fight and win. … I am proud to be their commander, and proud to present their accomplishments to our president."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Terri Barriere serves with the 51st Fighter Wing public affairs office.)