A Return to Fort Stewart with the President and First Lady

Tucker Patch

Fourteen years ago this month, I signed into Fort Stewart for my first active duty assignment.  I proudly served with the 3rd Infantry Division for more than three years and deployed to Bosnia with 3-15 Infantry, the "Can Do" Battalion. 

Today, I returned to Fort Stewart for the first time in many years.  I went back to meet with President Obama and the First Lady during their visit with soldiers, veterans and their family members. 

The President and the First Lady were incredibly gracious and their admiration for the soldiers was evident.  Time and time again, they said to the troops, "we've got your backs."  What is really inspiring is that they mean it. 

The First Lady spoke first and from the heart, saying how thrilled they were to be here today. She said, "One of my greatest privileges as First Lady has been meeting folks like you on bases and communities all across the country.  And I always say this, but I can never say it enough: I am in awe of you."  She also talked about Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor, and support our veterans and our military families. 

The First Lady concluded by stating, "We're going to keep on working every day to serve all of you as well as you have served this country." That is a charge we need to keep.

President Obama thanked the troops for their service and sacrifice and said, "history will remember what you did, and so will we.  We will remember the profound sacrifices that you've made in these wars."

The President then reiterated his promise to fight for soldiers just as they fight for us.  To that end, he talked about efforts to secure jobs for veterans and their families and new tax credits for companies that hire veterans.  "We want every veteran who wants a job to get a job.  That's the goal." 

The President praised the GI Bill and its impact on our history and his own, since his grandfather used the GI Bill to go to school.  He expressed hope that the Post 9-11 GI Bill might improve the fortunes for the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I hope so too, and I am using my Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits to further my education at the University of Georgia.

Unfortunately, there are some schools out there that are bad actors and take advantage of veterans.  These schools say you don't have to pay a dime for a degree and then get people to sign high interest student loans.  These schools say you can transfer credits but in fact you can't. These schools say they have job placement programs when they don't.  Consequently, President Obama signed an Executive Order to stop deceptive and misleading practices by educational institutions that target veterans, service members and their families.

After speaking, the President and the First Lady spent time with the soldiers and their family members.  They looked so happy to be there.  And the soldiers, veterans and family members were definitely happy they were there too.

Following the ceremony, I talked to several soldiers and thanked them for their service.  They were all proud to be with the 3rd Infantry Division and thrilled that the President and First Lady came to visit. 

I then walked around the post and it was an actual stroll down memory lane.  I went past the field where I started each day singing the 3rd Infantry Division song, which is one of the great traditions of the U.S. Army.  I peeked into a building where I worked and thought about the incredible people with whom I served.  I walked down the road where I ran each morning during physical training.  And I remembered the fallen soldiers who are memorialized on the Warriors' Walk.

Never did I imagine as a young soldier that I would return someday for a visit with the President and First Lady. 

We live in amazing country and I am proud to be an American.  I was especially proud today.  Rock of the Marne!

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