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Obama Thanks Service Members, Vets During Carrier Classic

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2011 – The commander-in-chief caught a basketball game along with more than 8,000 of his closest friends aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier in San Diego last night.

President Barack Obama and more than 8,000 sailors, Marines and veterans watched the kick-off of the National Collegiate Athletic Association college hoops season aboard the USS Carl Vinson.

The president began the day with a breakfast with veterans at the White House and officiated at the national tribute to veterans at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. He then flew to San Diego, where he attended the basketball game aboard the carrier before flying on to Hawaii to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference.

“The main reason we’re here is, on Veterans Day, we have an opportunity to say thank you,” Obama said to the crew and veterans aboard the carrier.

“One of the greatest privileges of this job, and one of the greatest responsibilities of this job, is to serve as your commander-in-chief. And I can tell you that every day when I interact with our military, every day when I interact with the men and women in uniform, I could not be prouder to be an American,” he said.

Now the country must serve veterans as well as they have served the country, the president said. “When they come home, part of the long line of those who defended our freedom, we have a sacred trust to make sure that they understand how much we appreciate what they do,” he told the crew.

“So to all our veterans, to all our men and women in uniform, we say thank you.”

But beyond that, Obama said Americans must understand the sacrifices service members and veterans have made and give them the opportunities they have earned. He noted initiatives already in place and others to come.

“We’ve put in place a series of reforms to help veterans, make sure they get the counseling and the job placement that they need,” the president said.

Obama touted the Joining Forces program led by his wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. That effort has now gotten commitments from businesses to provide 100,000 jobs for veterans and military spouses all across the country.

“But every American citizen can make a solemn pledge today that they will find some opportunity to provide support to our troops, to those who are still active duty, to our National Guard, to our reservists and to our veterans,” Obama said.

The flight deck of USS Carl Vinson was an especially appropriate venue for last night’s basketball game. North Carolina and Michigan State – two storied NCAA teams – played on the same deck that launched some of the first sorties against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and played a part in the mission to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

Parts of the game were typical; basketball sportscaster Dick Vitale was on the mike, and UNC alumnus James Worthy and Michigan State great Earvin “Magic” Johnson attended. The crowd did the wave and followed the action intently.

But parts of the game were distinctly different. There was no beer in the stands -- the Navy is dry afloat -- and the action stopped to lower the U.S. flag at sunset. Sitting in the stands was former Army Spec. John Baca, who received the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam in 1970.

North Carolina won the game 67-55.

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Related Sites:
Special: Veterans Day 2011


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