President Donald J. Trump gave Americans a tutorial on the U.S. military as part of the Salute to America Independence Day celebration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington today.
''Today we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America,'' Trump said. ''We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag: The brave men and women of the United States military.''
He said the story of America is one of the greatest ever told. ''It is the epic tale of a great nation whose people have risked everything for what they know is right, and what they know is true,'' Trump said. ''It is the chronicle of brave citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future. And It is the saga of 13 separate colonies that united to form the most just and virtuous republic ever conceived. On this day, 243 years ago, our founding fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to declare independence and defend our God-given rights.''
Americans gained that independence through a brutal war, and succeeding generations built on that promise, he said. Americans pushed West, fought a civil war that freed a people, made stunning scientific discoveries, eliminated diseases and liberated people in distant lands from tyrants, Trump said. Americans are a generous people helping each other and helping other lands, he said.
In 1776, the future of American freedom lay in the hands of soldiers willing to fight for it, and the same is true today, Trump said.
Flanked by Acting Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Trump paid tribute to the men and women of the armed forces, beginning with the Coast Guard. As he finished his words, military musicians played the service anthems. Like clockwork, at the end of the songs there was a flyover of aircraft from that service: for the Coast Guard, a C-130 Hercules and two helicopters flew past the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Trump spoke of the United States Air Force going from cloth-covered biplanes to rockets to the Moon in 61 years. Following the Air Force song, two F-22 Raptors flew in formation with a B-2 Spirit bomber.
Trump spoke of the Navy, and how the mission really hasn’t changed since its formation in 1775. ''When Old Glory crests the waves of foreign shores, every friend and every foe knows that justice sails those waters: It sails with the United States Navy,'' he said. Naval aviators flying F-18 Super Hornets and F-35 Lightning fighters gave their own salute to America in their flyover.
Trump turned to the U.S. Marine Corps. He said the motto Semper Fidelis — Always Faithful — ''burns in the soul of every Marine. ... They are the elite masters of air and land and sea on battlefields all across the globe.'' The Marine flyover featured V-22 tilt-rotor Ospreys and the new VH-92 helicopter.
Finally, Trump turned to the senior service — the Army. Formed in June 1775, the Army is older than the republic it defends.
''At Shiloh, Antietam and Gettysburg, our soldiers gave the last full measure of devotion for the true unity of our nation and the freedom of all Americans,'' Trump said.
American soldiers fought through the trenches of World War I, liberated concentration camps in World War II, held the line in Korea and Vietnam. ''The Army brought America's righteous fury down on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and cleared the bloodthirsty killers from their caves,'' he said. ''They liberated Fallujah and Mosul and helped liberate and obliterate the ISIS caliphate just recently in Syria.''
AH-64 Apache attack helicopters represented the Army in the flyover.
''Nearly 250 years ago, a volunteer army of farmers and shopkeepers, blacksmith, merchants and militiamen risked life and limb to secure American liberty, and self government,'' Trump said. ''This evening, we have witnessed the noble might of the warriors who continue that legacy. They guard our birthright with vigilance and fierce devotion to the flag and to our great country.
''Now, we must go forward as a nation with that same unity of purpose,'' he continued. ''As long as we stay true to our course, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do.''