WASHINGTON, July 5, 2013 - --
President Barack Obama praised and thanked U.S. military members and their families for their service to the nation during an Independence Day celebration held yesterday on the South Lawn of the White House.
The event was attended by military members representing all branches of the armed forces.
"We are incredibly grateful for your service, and we're thankful that you get a chance to spend the Fourth here with us," Obama told the service members.
This year's Fourth of July celebration marked 237 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the president said. Today, the United States "stands as the greatest nation on Earth," he said.
"And what makes us great is not our size or our wealth, but our values and our ideals and the fact that we're willing to fight for them," the president added.
America continues to be "a land of liberty and opportunity; a global defender of peace and freedom; a beacon of hope for people everywhere who cherish those ideals," Obama said. And the nation's service members -- past and present -- "have defended our nation at home and abroad," Obama said.
"You fought for our nation's beliefs, to make the world a better and safer place," he told service members at the White House. "People in scattered corners of the world live in peace today are free to write their own futures, because of you."
Obama praised the "incredibly capable and brave men and women" serving in the nation's armed forces, and he highlighted some of the military members in attendance, including Army Spc. Heidi Olson, who, after being wounded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, gave lifesaving treatment to other injured soldiers.
Olson "had to be ordered to stop and get treatment for herself when the MEDEVAC aircraft arrived," the president said. "And for her courage, she was awarded a Bronze Star. "
The president also saluted Navy Petty Officer Joe Marcinkowski who
, he said, "serves wounded warriors at Walter Reed, coordinating their care and supporting their families throughout their recoveries. "
Obama also recognized Air Force Staff Sergeant Adam Ybarra. The airman, he said, "helped save nine lives in 11 combat search-and-rescue missions in Afghanistan in 2012. "
The president also praised Marine Corps Cpl. Amber Fifer. Fifer "was shot five times in an attack in Helmand province [in Afghanistan], and has stayed on to serve as a Marine Corps drill instructor," the president said.
Obama also saluted Coast Guard Petty Officer Randy Haba. The Coast Guard member, the president said, "was one of the first responders to rescue the crew of a ship off the coast of North Carolina when Hurricane Sandy struck and saved the lives of five mariners."
Each day, U.S. service members are "carrying forward the ideals that inspired that American Dream [that began] 237 years ago," Obama said.
"Defending our nation and our freedoms with strength and with sacrifice is your daily charge," the president told the service members. "And it's the charge of all of us -- the charge of all who serve worldwide, including our troops that are still in harm's way, and their families back home. They serve, too. And so we think of them, we pray for them.
"And on behalf of all Americans, I want to say thank you and wish you all a very, very happy Fourth of July," Obama continued. "You've earned it. So, God bless you. God bless your families. God bless the United States of America."