President Barack Obama hosted a dinner on Wednesday evening to honor war veterans who have recently returned from Iraq. This was the President’s first major tribute to veterans since withdrawing all troops officially from the Middle Eastern nation. The White House reported they invited over 100 veterans plus one guest each to the dinner, as well as a few veteran groups and Gold Star families.
President Obama gave a ten minute speech, dedicated to the Iraq veterans and the veterans of the Vietnam War. He said, “In the history of this house, there has never been a night quite like this. This evening we welcome not the statesmen who decide great questions of war and peace, but citizens men and women from every corner of our country, from every rank of our military, every branch of our service, who answer the call, who go to war, who defend the peace. You succeeded in your mission. In your resilience, we see the essence of America because we do not give up. All of you taught us a lesson about the character of our country.” At the end of his speech, Obama raised his glass and toasted his guests.
The White House called the dinner “A Nation’s Gratitude: Honoring those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.” Thankful remarks were also made by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, and Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama promised that similar events will continuously be held at the White House. After nine years of war that killed 4,500 Americans and left tens of thousands injured, the last U.S. soldiers were released from Iraq in December 2011.