FOB Warhorse, Iraq
December 18, 2009
As Delivered

I do appreciate the chance to just be with you here today and say simply, "Thank you."

I was honored about [6] years ago as a member of the House Armed Services Committee to be the first Congressional delegation to come after the invasion of Iraq and leave the secure area of the airbase.

We had a chance to go down into downtown Bagdad and the circumstances there were such that we could dismount and walk the streets. We went in and visited the schools. And as you all know, shortly thereafter things got very ugly.

I was a politician. I was in the House of Representatives on the Armed Services Committee and I heard from that point forward, time and time again, how we made a bad choice, how Iraq was lost, how the battles could never be won.

The only individuals that those people saying those things failed to consult with were people like you: people who understood this mission and people who would not walk away from it.

Now... years later, as you know, while this still remains a very dangerous mission, particularly in places that have brought you together here, we're on the verge of a great victory. And it's, yes, a victory for the United States, but it's a victory for freedom. A victory that the good people of Iraq, who for 40 years, deserved much better than the horror of the regime under which they were living.

So today, as each Iraqi wakes up with a new opportunity for a better future, they owe it to good people like you. And I just wanted to be here, yes, as your secretary, but more as a citizen of the greatest nation the world has ever known, to say, "Thank you."

Thank you for the freedoms that your sacrifice has given unto so many. Thank you for being here, here near Baquba, to carry on the mission ... started here in previous deployments. Thank you as an American who wakes up every morning under the sunshine of freedom that the American military has provided to this nation for over [234] years.

So whatever faith you may bring to your life, let me close by saying God bless you, have a happy, happy holiday season. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, happy New Year. God bless you and come home safe. Thank you all very much.