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Obama: High Esteem for Military 'Held Steady and Constant...Throughout My Presidency'

President Obama, with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, listens to the National Anthem during an Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Review on Jan. 4, 2017, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

ARLINGTON, Va. — In his final address to members of the U.S. military today, President Obama said the armed forces have been held in high esteem “throughout my presidency” and cautioned against the “false illusion of isolationism” in “this dangerous time.”

Obama was joined by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Vice President Biden and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall near the Pentagon to tell service members that “there has been no greater privilege and no greater honor, than serving as commander in chief of the greatest military in the history of the world.”

“It’s because of you, particularly our remarkable Special Forces, that the core al-Qaeda leadership that attacked us on 9/11 has been decimated. Countless terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden are gone,” Obama said. “…Even as we’ve suffered terrible attacks here at home, from Boston to Orlando, no foreign terrorist organization successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years.”

Obama listed military successes including rescuing Captain Phillips from Somali pirates and battling Ebola in West Africa.

“You have not seen the depths of true love and true patriotism until you’ve been to Dover, when our troops receive our fallen heroes on their final journey home,” he said. “Until you have grieved with our Gold Star families who have given a piece of their heart to our nation, a son or a daughter, a father or mother, husband or wife, a brother or sister, every one a patriot. Every single one of these American families deserves the everlasting gratitude and support of our entire nation.”

The president said that despite sequestration and cutbacks, among the “challenges of recent years, and there have been challenges, our allies and adversaries alike understand America’s military remains by far the most capable fighting force on the face of the earth.”

“Our Navy is the largest and most lethal in the world, on track to surpass 300 ships. Our Air Force, with its precision and reach, is unmatched. Our Marine Corps is the world’s only truly expeditionary force. Our Coast Guard is the finest in the world,” Obama continued. “And we’re also the best because this military has come to welcome the talents of more of our fellow Americans. Service members can now serve the country they love without hiding who they are… And Joe Biden and I know that women are at least as strong as men. We’re stronger for it. It’s one of the reasons that our military stands apart as the most respected institution in our nation by a mile.”

He said one of his “proudest achievements” is being able to “communicate through the constant partisan haze, along with so many others, how special this institution is.”

“And the esteem in which our military is held has held steady and constant and high throughout my presidency. And I’m very grateful for that,” he added. “Because you remind us that we are united as a one team. At times of division, you’ve shown what it means to pull together.”

“…We need to remember that we must not give in to the false illusion of isolationism because in this dangerous time, oceans alone will not protect us and the world still seeks and needs our leadership as the one indispensable nation. We have to remember that our military has to be prepared for the full spectrum of threats, conventional and unconventional, from 20th century-style aggression to 21st century-style cyber threats.”

Obama told service members that “while less than one percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, 100 percent of Americans can… support you and your families. Everybody can do something.”

“It has been a privilege of a lifetime to serve with you,” he said. “I have learned much from you. I’m a better man having worked with you.”