Vice President Mike Pence thanked U.S. Navy sailors and their families for their commitment to protecting the nation as he visited Lemoore Naval Air Station on Saturday afternoon.
Pence, accompanied by his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence, spoke for about 20 minutes on the tarmac of the Navy base in one of his last official stops before his term as vice president, along with that of President Donald Trump, comes to an end Wednesday.
Pence’s stage was set up in front of a pair of Navy jets that are part of the Pacific Strike Fighter Wing headquartered at Lemoore: an F-35 Lightning and an F-18E Super Hornet.
“It’s great to be back in Strike Fighter Country,” Pence said. He and his wife visited Lemoore in July 2019. “It’s inspiring to look out and see all of you today,” he added, noting that generations of Navy “warriors have come here, trained here” and deployed from the Lemoore base over more than 60 years.
Under a sunny sky, Pence wore a Navy flight jacket adorned with insignia of squadrons at the Lemoore base. Pence told the sailors that his daughter, Charlotte, and her husband, Navy Lt. Henry Bond, are stationed at Lemoore; a son is a Marine fighter pilot in Arizona.
“I’m here to deliver a very simple message to every single one of you, …” he said. “Thank you for your service.
“After traveling across this country over the past four years, I promise you, the American people are more grateful for your service than you will ever know,” Pence added.
In his speech, Pence proclaimed the success of the Trump administration in restoring a military budget that he said had “been hollowed out by devastating budget cuts,” including providing the largest pay raise for military personnel in about a decade; upgrading outdated equipment in every branch of the armed forces; and for insisting that America’s NATO allies ramp up their contributions to the alliance’s defense.
“For four years I’ve had the honor of being vice president of the United States,” he said. “And we’ve worked every day to make the strongest military force in the world stronger still.
“History teaches that weakness arouses evil, and our history has proven that a strong America deters it. Our administration has always understood that if you want peace, prepare for war,” Pence said. “I’m proud to say with just a few days left in this administration that this is the first administration in decades not to get America into a new war.”
Over four years, Pence said, NATO members had increased their allocations to the alliance’s budget by more than $130 billion.
Additionally, Pence touted the administration’s move of the U.S. Embassy In Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights, which he described as “historic” support for the Jewish state. Through various diplomatic efforts, he added “four Arab nations now recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
The move by President Trump to withdraw the U.S. from a nuclear agreement with Iran — a nation Pence described as the world’s “leading state sponsor of terrorism” — has isolated that nation. “Thanks to American leadership, a more peaceful Middle East is within our sights,” he said. He also cited the role that squadrons from Lemoore played in the battle against radical Islamic terrorists including ISIS.
Those accomplishments, Pence added, would not be possible without the efforts of the Navy and the other armed forces, as well as their families. “We’re so grateful for your sacrifice and grateful for your spouses’ and children’s sacrifice,” Pence said.
Pence also offered advice to the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris over concerns over China’s growing efforts to expand its dominance in Asian geopolitics.
“We do well to remember as Americans that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” he said. “And so I urge the incoming administration to stay the course, do what we’ve done, stand up to Chinese aggression and trade abuses, stand strong for a free and open Indo-Pacific and put America and our freedom-loving allies first.”
After Karen Pence introduced her husband, she was whisked to a nearby hangar where she spoke with military spouses — a constituency for whom she has championed for broader employment opportunities during her time as Second Lady.
In addition to the Navy sailors, the audience included Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, who recently won back a seat representing the 21st Congressional District that includes the Lemoore base. Valadao is one of 10 Republicans in Congress to vote last week to impeach President Trump over his role in inflaming a crowd of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and the only Republican from the California delegation to vote for impeachment.
Valadao was briefly greeted by Pence after the speech, and said Pence simply said hello and asked how he was doing. Valadao added that he intends to attend Biden’s inauguration at the Capitol on Wednesday.
After the speech, Pence posed for photos and spoke with some of the assembled Navy personnel before being taken by motorcade to an undisclosed engagement.
On Sunday, Pence is scheduled to address soldiers at Fort Drum in New York.
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