President Barack Obama says he'll withdraw America's combat brigades from Iraq over the next 18 months.
He made that announcement before 2,000 Marines at Camp Lejeune today. Obama spent about four hours in Eastern Carolina, as Air Force One left Cherry Point around 3:10 p.m.
The president began his speech at Camp Lejeune at noon by recognizing North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, Senator Kay Hagan and other North Carolina dignitaries.
He recognized the troops overseas, saying "We have you in our prayers, we pay tribute to your service."
The president saluted the troops, saying many of them have endured tour after tour of duty, know the dangers of combat and distance from loved ones. He said our troops fight against tyranny and disorder, bleed for their best friends and for unknown Iraqis and bear an enormous burden for their country.
President Obama told the troops at Lejeune he was there to talk about the end of the Iraq war.
Click this link to read the full speech.
The president said the violence will not end, but there is a new hope for Iraq, as U.S. forces help the war-torn country build a new foundation.
He announced his administration's review of the war in Iraq is complete and said a new course has been developed to transition Iraq to full Iraqi responsibility.
The president said the first part of the course is responsible removal of our combat units from Iraq. The timeline he proposed will remove combat units from Iraq in 18 months, by August 31, 2010. He repeated America's combat mission in Iraq will end on that date. He said the safety and security of U.S. troops and civilians in Iraq are paramount in the removal of troops.
He said all U.S. troops will be removed from Iraq by the end of 2011.
The president said the role then will be to support the Iraq government and its forces. He said we will continue training, equipping and advising Iraqi security forces as long as they remain non-sectarian, continue counterterrorism and protect ongoing U.S. efforts in Iraq.
Obama spoke directly to the people of Iraq, saying they had perserved through tyranny and terror. He said they showed a proud resilience that deserved respect.
"We Americans have offered our most precious resource, our young men and women" to help Iraq, the president said. He sai the United States pursues no claim on Iraq's territory or resources, and we need to build a lasting relationship built on respect.
He talked about refocusing America's weight to ending terrorism, by pursuits in Afghanistan and other Middle East countries.
The president said the government will build new wounded warrior centers, work to treat traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The president said "service does not end with the person wearing the uniform." He talked about the unique burden military families endure, and the president said military families are a top priority for his administration.
The crowd roared when Obama said the government will raise military pay.
"The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable," said Obama. "We all honor you for them."
The president talked about two Camp Lejeune Marines who were recently awarded Navy Cross medals posthumously. The two died on April 22, 2008 when a suicide bomber targeted the post in Ramadi where they were standing post, and the two's efforts saved dozens of lives.
He told the troops their sacrifice should challenge all Americans to ask what can they do for their country.
The president concluded by saying "we have begun the work of ending this war."
Air Force One touched down shortly after 11:00 a.m. this morning at MCAS Cherry Point. The president left the plane and shook hands with a few Marines on the flight line before getting onboard Marine One.
The Goettge Memorial Field House at Camp Lejeune is a sea of green this morning, filled with Marines are seeing their Commander In Chief.
Inside the field house, WITN reporter Chelsea Donovan says the place is full of excitement. She says there is a packed house, the Marines are in good spirit, and a Marine band of playing patriotic songs.
Chelsea says there is a media frenzy inside the field house. WITN's location is next to Sky News of Great Britain.
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