CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Speaking in an airplane hangar at Camp Pendleton Wednesday afternoon, President Obama thanked nearly 3,000 troops and their families for their service but warned that the country must continue to be vigilant against terrorist threats.
"Even as we decimated the al Qaeda leadership that attacked us on 9/11, al Qaeda affiliates and likeminded extremists still threaten our homeland, still threaten our diplomatic facilities, still threaten our businesses abroad. And we've got to take these threats seriously and do all we can to confront them," President Obama said Wednesday.
"For these extremists, here's what those who would cowardly attack our civilians don't get: The United States is never going to retreat from the world. We don't get terrorized," he said.
Obama alluded to the temporary closing of U.S. diplomatic posts and the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and praised the diplomatic and military personnel working to protect these facilities.
"I want to take a special time out to salute all our brave diplomats and tireless intelligence and military personnel who have been working around the clock to safeguard our embassies and our consulates and our fellow Americans serving overseas, including all of those vigilant Marines standing guard at our embassies around the world," he said.
The president lauded the troops for their service, particularly highlighting their work to protect the country from groups like al Qaeda.
"Because of you, the 9/11 generation, we are accomplishing what we set out to do. Because of you, Osama bin Laden is no more," he said. "Because of you, al Qaeda's top ranks have been hammered. The core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the way to defeat. That happened because of you."
While he heaped praise on the servicemembers, the president also addressed two issues currently plaguing the military - sexual assault and the effects of sequestration.
The president stressed that sexual assault in the military must end and reaffirmed his commitment to combating the problem.
"I want you to hear it directly from me, the commander in chief. It undermines what this military stands for, and it undermines what the Marine Corps stands for when sexual assault takes place within our units," he said. "That's why we are going to work together, all of us, to stop these crimes of sexual assault and uphold the honor and the integrity that defines the finest military on earth, and that message is coming all the way from the top."
Obama acknowledged the impact sequestration has had on families at Camp Pendleton and criticized Congress for not developing a solution to the budget cuts.
" Here at Pendleton, you're feeling it. Hardworking folks are getting furloughed, families getting by on less, fewer shifts available for your training exercises, the commissary your families rely on closed a day a week," Obama said. "We can do better than that. That's not how a great nation should be treating its military and military families."
"That's why I'm going to keep on working to get rid of this sequester. You get up and do your jobs every day. Let's make sure Washington gets up and does its job," he said.
The president shared his excitement over visiting Camp Pendleton, home to the 1st Marine Division, and explained why his family holds a particular fondness for the Marines Corps.
"My family and I, we've got a special place in our hearts for the Marine Corps. Now part of it is because every day at the White House, we're surrounded by Marines," he said. "And then, of course, every time I need to kind of a hop, skip and a jump somewhere, every time I get on Marine One, I rely on some of the best aviators in the world."