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America's Servicemembers Deserve Nation's Gratitude, Biden Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2009 – U.S. servicemembers' combat missions over the years -- in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq -- have earned them the support and thanks of a grateful nation, Vice President Joe Biden told troops on Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., today.

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Vice President Joe Biden speaks to troops at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Biden said the nation owes them their gratitude and support for their service in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia, April 16, 2009. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.
  

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Today's generation of American warriors, Biden said, are "the most powerful, best disciplined, best-trained warriors America has ever, ever produced. And for that I thank you and we owe you -- and that is not an exaggeration."

So, the U.S. government is working hard to "improve the quality of life on bases all across America," he said, noting that $17.8 million is being invested at Whiteman to modernize the base and improve the quality of life for its servicemembers.

Additionally, Biden said, recent legislation includes more than $7 billion for military construction projects, including hospitals, child care centers, and upgraded housing.

The government also has expanded GI Bill benefits to make college more affordable for servicemembers and military veterans.

"All in all, this administration is wholly devoted to serving the brave women and men in uniform," the vice president said. "As you sacrifice to serve our country, we should do a little sacrifice serving you.”

Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he noted, has been boosted by $25 billion. "That's never happened before," he said. "It's the biggest (VA) budget increase in a generation."

Thousands of wounded warriors "will need the most modern medical health care for the rest of their lives," he pointed out. "The cost of that will be in the tens of billions of dollars. But it's a sacred, a sacred commitment."

Increased health care coverage, he said, will provide 5.5 million veterans with timely and high-quality health care.

"We're providing services to veterans with the efficiency and quality they deserve, and keeping that deep debt that we owe that you should and have a right to demand," Biden told servicemembers.

"We owe you a particular obligation today," he said, "because there's tens of thousands of men and women who have already fought and continue to fight bravely for our country in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Biden also saluted National Guard members who deploy overseas and the families -- reserve and active component -- who support them at home.

"It's become a day job for tens of thousands of Guardsmen, in addition to all your families," he said. 

He praised the families of servicemembers who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the families of wounded warriors.

"I say to the families, thank you, thank you, and we owe you -- we owe you as deeply as we owe your kin, your blood," he said.

Servicemembers' "unyielding commitment" to the defense of their nation, he said, is part of what "makes each and every one of you so special."

Biden's son, Joseph "Beau" Biden III, an Army National Guard captain, is serving in Iraq.

"So from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of every one of those young men and women on the ground, like my son in Iraq, I say to all of you, I admire you, the president admires you, and we are putting our money where our mouth is in terms of seeing to it that you have everything you need as you deploy, when you deploy, and when you come home," he said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageVice President Joe Biden speaks to troops at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Biden said the nation owes them their gratitude and support for their service in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia, April 16, 2009. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.   
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