Obama praised military forces during New Jersey stop

President Barack Obama hailed returning warriors and said that the number of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan dropped from nearly 180,000 when he took office to fewer than 15,000 at the end of the year, but he said military troops are still working to destroy terror groups and saving lives by fighting to contain the spread of Ebola.

“The time of deploying large ground forces with big military footprints to engage in nation building overseas, that’s coming to an end,” said Obama at New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Speaking to about 3,000 troops and their families, Obama said U.S. and NATO troops concluded combat operations in Afghanistan after 13 years of war.

Obama noted that New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst has been a key point for military deployments for decades, noting that Elvis Presley came home through the base when he served in the military.

“Going forward our military will be leaner but as your commander in chief, I’m going to make sure we keep you ready for the range of missions that we ask of you,” said Obama. “We are going to keep you the best trained, the best led, the best equipped military in the history of the world because the world will still be calling.”

“We’re free and safe over here because you’re willing to serve over there,” he said. “That’s the noble spirit of your sacrifice. That’s the selfless character of our military. Those are the precious gifts that you give America, not just this time of year, but all year, every year. You never stop serving. You never stop giving. You guys are like Santa in fatigues.”

Obama said Democrats Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Donald Norcross were “doing their jobs” by encouraging him not to close the unique military facility, home to 38,000 active-duty, reserve and guard service members, civilians and family members in Burlington and Ocean counties.

Republicans Gov. Chris Christie, Rep. Jon Runyan and Congressman-elect Tom MacArthur also welcomed the president as Air Force One arrived at the base.

Obama quoted New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, saying “we take care of our own” and he added, “that’s what we do here in New Jersey, that’s what we do all across America.”

“Part of the message I’m here to deliver on behalf of the american people is very simple: thank you,” he said. “Thank you for your extraordinary service.”

In his weekly address on Saturday, the President thanked the men and women in uniform who serve and sacrifice to protect the freedom, prosperity, and security that we all enjoy as Americans.

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