By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press ServiceMay 22, 2009
WASHINGTON, May 21, 2009 - The example the U.S. military sets can inspire people around the world, Vice President Joe Biden told servicemembers at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, today.
"Just the fact that you are all here representing every hue and color, male and female, sends such a message throughout this region so loudly that I think you all underestimate the consequences," Biden told the National Guardsmen at the main U.S. camp in the country.
The American forces are serving shoulder to shoulder with NATO forces and other allies, and are an example to the people of the Balkan country on the strengths of diversity, the vice president said.
"You show the world ... what happens when nations resolve to stand together to defeat tyranny and to build free societies," Biden said.
He also called the U.S. military the most visible and vital examples of American values. "You're the embodiment of our deep-seated ethic of selflessness and sacrifice," he told the servicemembers.
All who have served in Kosovo can say they helped to integrate the Balkans into Europe, Biden noted. "This mission brings stability and prosperity to Kosovo, and it symbolizes the way that NATO has reached out beyond its original boundaries and mission to provide security in places that need help like this one, and in turn enhance our security," the vice president said.
The Guardsmen at the base do more than just provide security. They also help to establish health and dental clinics, they offer veterinary aid, and they work at local schools, with local engineers and with local governments.
"For every little thing you do, you do so much to secure a brighter future for those kids you see in the streets, for Kosovo, and you do it for the region -- and for America - [the] America that relies on you to create and maintain the peaceful world that we all desire," he said. "And for that, and so much more, we owe you."
Biden said the Obama administration has focused on providing servicemembers and veterans what they have earned. The revamped GI Bill, increased funding for medical care and increases in the Veterans Affairs budget all are designed to repay servicemembers for their sacrifices, he told the Guardsmen.
Earlier in the day, Biden received Kosovo's Medal of Freedom and addressed the national assembly. He praised Kosovar leaders for the progress they have made, but called on them to do more, saying the nation must continue to build strong national institutions and must reach out to all Kosovars regardless of ethnic background. He especially called on Kosovar leaders to respect the rights of the Serb minority in the country.
"Strengthening the rule of law must remain your priority," Biden said. "Do not let up in your efforts to eliminate corruption and tackle organized crime."
Kosovo faces many challenges, but the United States and the international community will remain to help them overcome any obstacles, the vice president said.