Obama praises members of military academies
Wading into one of the most storied football rivalries,
President Barack Obama saluted U.S. troops Saturday, kicking off a
series of observances marking the end of the Iraq war. As the 112th
Army-Navy game unfolded before him, Obama said: ”They’re the best
we have to offer.”
The president tossed the coin at the start of the game, visited
wounded soldiers and their families, and walked through a
ceremonial cadet gantlet at halftime, switching sides in the
traditional symbol of commander in chief neutrality.
As he watched players exchange hits on the field, Obama
reminisced about his own athletic past, noting that it was early in
high school that he got the idea that he wasn’t cut out for
”I played football in 9th grade and then I realized I was more
built for basketball,” he said Saturday from the CBS broadcast
booth at FedEx Field. ”I was a big kid in the 8th grade and then
in the 9th grade suddenly everyone started getting a little heavier
Obama attended the game with Vice President Joe Biden and with
Biden’s wife Jill. He strolled into the packed stadium, shaking
hands as a song by the hard rock band AC/DC blared out of the
stadium loudspeakers. F-18 jets and Apache helicopters flew in
Wearing a dark suit and tie and a long black top coat, Obama sat
among the cadets on a sunny but brisk day. An announced crowd of
nearly 81,000 watched the game. Navy won 27-21, its tenth straight
victory over the Army’s Black Knights.
”They’re smart, dedicated, tough, love their country, do an
incredible job. And that’s what gives this game such resonance,”
the president told announcers Verne Lundquist and Gary
”What we’re reminded of is that as important as sports are,
these guys are going to be in life or death situations voluntarily
protecting our country. They’re going to be on the same team. It
constantly makes you grateful for being here in America and these
incredible young people. They are the best we have to offer,”
Obama said during his first-quarter appearance.
He posed for pictures with cheerleaders and signed banners and
footballs. At half time, he and the Bidens visited wounded service
members – 49 Army soldiers, 18 sailors, two Marines and one
Obama is drawing attention to this month’s full withdrawal of
U.S. troops from Iraq, meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri
al-Malaki at the White House on Monday and visiting Fort Bragg in
North Carolina on Wednesday to thank returning soldiers.
He noted that his grandfather served in World War II under Gen.
George C. Patton and is buried in the national memorial in
”It’s a reminder that these games, as much fun as these things
are, part of what we celebrate is the dedication and the sacrifice
that all these young men and young women who are in the stands are
going to be making for our country day in and day out.”
He said that while he lived in Chicago, he cheered for Illinois.
”But now that I’m in Washington, I’ve got to admit, most Saturdays
It was the first time the game was played in the Washington
area, at FedEX Field, home of the Washington Redskins.
”We’re close to the Pentagon. A lot of these guys are going to
end up serving at some point or another here in Washington, passing
through, getting their orders,” he said.