President Obama Salutes Troops at Carrier Classic

SAN DIEGO — In a first-of-its-kind Veterans Day celebration, President Obama came aboard the aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea to celebrate America’s troops at the “Carrier Classic” college basketball game.

“We are so fortunate to be able to witness two of the greatest basketball programs in history — Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels,” the basketball-fan-in-chief said to cheers from the 7,000 spectators, mostly military personnel, aboard the aircraft carrier. “But the main reason we’re here is, on Veterans Day, we have an opportunity to say thank you. … We want you to know that we are committed to making sure that we serve you as well as you have always served us.”

The president, wearing an Air Force bomber jacket, walked out onto the court with the first lady, in a red-and-white stripped sweater, as the Navy band played “Hail to the Chief.” The national anthem and a flyover soon followed.

In his brief opening remarks, Obama called on Americans to do more to support veterans, noting that Congress this week passed legislation that “makes it a little bit easier for businesses to hire our veterans.”

“That gratitude that we have for our men and women of the armed forces does not stop when they take off the uniform,” he said. “When they come home, part of the long line of those who defended our freedom, we have a sacred trust to make sure that they understand how much we appreciate what they do. And that’s not just on Veterans Day. That is every day of every year, where we salute them and we say thank you for making the sacrifices and for their families’ sacrifices on our behalf.”

As for the venue, the president said it was “especially appropriate” because the USS Carl Vinson “has been a messenger of diplomacy and a protector of our security for a long time.”

“It was from this aircraft carrier that some of the first assaults on Iraq were launched,” President Obama said. “This ship supports what’s happening in Afghanistan. I think some of you may know, because it’s been reported, that the men and women on the Carl Vinson were part of that critical mission to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.”

The carrier conducted bin Laden’s burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs during a raid ordered by Obama in May.

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