Royal Air Force Mildenhall Mildenhall, United Kingdom June 9 8:45 P.M. BST
Colonel, thank you for that introduction and your service leading this team in such a difficult time. Because we know that it's the whole family who serves; I also want to Melissa. I know — I know your next assignment at U.S. Transportation Command starts soon. So congratulations, and thank you, thank you, thank you.
And, Sydney, you're 14 years old. When I was 14 — please, at ease. I keep forgetting I'm President. (Laughter.) When I was 14 years old, I would have been — I mean this sincerely — scared to death to stand up in front of a microphone, in a large crowd or small crowd. See, when I was a child, I used to stutter badly — for real. I had great difficulty speaking in front of other people. And — so I expect that when you're President, you'll remember me. (Laughter.) You'll remember me. You're, really, quite a polished young woman. Thank you.
And, you know, it's got to be hard to have your dad deployed to Afghanistan. And I also know how proud you are of him and your mom, Chief Master Sergeant, for being part of the leadership team here.
Our son Beau served as a U.S. attorney for a while in — in Kosovo for a while. Matter of fact, they erected a war monument to him. And — and then he went on and he joined the National Guard. Gave up his job as attorney general of the State of Delaware so he can go with his unit to Iraq for a year. And when he got promoted to Major, I said, "Beau, you're now a field-grade officer." I was in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan about 28 times. And I said, "You're now a field-grade officer." He said, "Dad, I have no illusions. I know who runs the military: chief master sergeants." (Laughs.) (Applause.) So, I just want you to know we know. Okay?
Thank you for your incredible dedication and service. And, you know, I want to thank you all — all of you — all your families — for the sacrifices they've made. And congratulations to having just a wonderful child.
There's an awful lot of history at this base, a proud history for the British people — the bravery and heroism of the Royal Air Force pilots fighting to defend their nation.
I'm sure everyone here knows the history, but just six hours after Britain and France declared war on Germany in 1939, three Wellington bombers took off from Mildenhall and bombed Nazi battleships.
And over the course of World War Two, out of this base, RAF bombers dropped nearly 28,000 tons of bombs on Nazi Germany, flying more than 8,000 sorties. This base has been a significant source of British air power — a proud, proud history of a proud nation.
But I also know there's also an awful lot of American Air Force pride in this room tonight. World War Two was when the U.S. Army Air Force formed the 100th Bombardment Group.
And, by the way, my — just so you know — although my uncle, who was killed in World War Two in New Guinea was Army — he was the Army Air Corps. He got shot down in a reconnaissance flight. And he would — he's looking down and thinking, "All these years, my God, what this Air Force has become." It's incredible.
The 100th also ran more than 8,000 sorties into hostile territory and supported operations from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge, where another uncle of mine served.
And when they first arrived in the UK in '43, the unit took such heavy losses, it earned the moniker that has been passed down to this day: "The Bloody Hundredth." The Bloody Hundredth.
So let me hear it for the 100th Air Wing — Air Refueling Wing, AKA — known as the "The Bloody Hundredth." (Applause.)
And what about the 352nd Special Operations Wing? (Applause.)
There's Team — Team Reconnaissance. Members of the Air Mobility Command. (Applause.)
Do we have any folks from the 48th Fighter Wing, over from RAF — (Applause.) By the way — I think maybe.
The 501st Combat Support Wing from RAF Alconbury. (Applause.)
And this may be a historic first for an Air Force base, but I hear there just might be a few members of the United States Army here tonight with us. (Applause.) Come on, man.
To all of you airmen and soldiers, I want to just say thank you. We owe you. We're so damn proud of you. So proud. And I only wish my Major was here to thank you as well. Thank you — everything you do, for everything you are.
There's nothing that Jill and I enjoy more than spending time with our troops and their families, wherever we go in the world.
I had the great honor of being in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq well over 27, 28 times. I think Jill is the only Second Lady in American history who has gone into a warzone — into Baghdad with me as well.
You're the best — you're the best of our country. That's not hyperbole. You're the ones who sign up and run toward danger when duty calls. Less than 1 percent of Americans make the choice that you make — that you made. But the rest of us — the other 99 percent of us — we owe you. We owe you big.
I've long said that, as a nation, we have many obligations,
but we only have one truly sacred obligation — only one — and that's to properly prepare and equip the women and men we send into harm's way, and to care for you and your families, both while you're deployed and when you come home.
And now that I have the incredible honor of serving as your Commander-in-Chief, I believe that even more strongly. You know — and I want to give an extra special thank you to all the families.
As you heard from Jill, we Bidens are a proud military family, and we know there's not just the person who wears the uniform who serves; the whole family has to step up, the whole family makes sacrifices. There's a famous Irish poet who said, "They also serve who only stand and wait."
I watched all those months Beau was in Kosovo. And then I watched all those — that year he was in — in Iraq. She would stand at that sink, leaving for school, drinking her coffee, and I could see her lips moving, saying that prayer, hoping that car never drove up in front of the house, hoping you never got that phone call.
And that's even more true this past year during the lockdowns and safety precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Everyone in this room knows that our military families are essential — essential to our strength.
It's the key reason Jill relaunched Joining Forces: to make sure we're doing everything we can to support our military spouses and children, and their mothers and fathers as well, just like they support all of you.
You know, you not only did an amazing job keeping COVID-19 under control on the base; you took care of each other and your mental health throughout the initiatives like your Spouse-to-Spouse Connection and your Wellness Advocacy Team. (Cheers.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. As you all know, this is a team sport.
And my mother would kill me if she were here. She'd say, "Joey, you shouldn't have..." — I should've turned around and apologized for by back to you. I apologize. (Laughter.) I haven't figured out how to turn in 360 yet. (Laughter.)
But, folks, thousands of hours spent volunteering to make sure everyone got through this. It was so important.
I know that these last 15 months added a lot of new pressure, but all of you rose to the task together as one team — Team Mildenhall. And you never let up on your mission.
And I'm so proud to be here with all of you to kick off my first overseas trip as President. I've been in and out of here many, many times. I've visited well over 100 countries as President or as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — or I meant as Vice President or Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. This is my first overseas trip as President of the United States.
I'm heading to the G7, then to the NATO Ministerial, and then to meet with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know. (Laughter and applause.)
And at every point along the way, we're going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and the issues that matter most to our future; that we're committed to leading with strength, defending our values, and delivering for our people.
America is better positioned to advance our national security and our economic prosperity when we bring together like-minded nations to stand with us. These nations that have shed blood alongside of us in defense of our shared values. Our unrivaled network of alliances and partnerships that are the key to American advantage in the world and have been. They've made the world safer for all of us, and they are how we are going to meet the challenges of today, which are changing rapidly. We're going to meet it, though, from a position of strength.
Our alliances weren't built by coercion or maintained by threats. They're grounded on democratic ideals and a shared vision of the future and where every voice matters — (applause) — where the rights — where the rights of all people are protected.
It's the same reason so many of you signed up to serve, to proudly defend and honor the democratic values that are the wellspring of our national strength.
If our British friends will excuse me quoting the Declaration of Independence — (laughter) — America is unique in all the world in that we are not formed based on geography, or ethnicity, or religion, but on an idea — an idea. The only nation in the world founded on the notion of an idea.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." We mean it. No nation can defeat us as long as we stick to our values.
It's our American creed. It's what makes us who we are. And it's what draws friends and partners to our side. And for hundreds of years, American patriots have fought, and sometimes died, defending those values.
Folks, look, I'm often quoted by the press as saying, "America leads not by the example of its power, but by the power of our example." All of you — our service members stationed around the world — you are the solid steel spine of America around which alliances are built and strengthened year after year.
[ ... ]
Read the full transcript HERE.
You can visit a collection of all White House posts by clicking HERE.