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Vice President’s Visit Boosts Soldiers’ Morale

By Army Pfc. Nevada J. Smith/Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP BONDSTEEL, May 22, 2009 - Vice President Joe Biden offered heartfelt thanks to the troops at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, noting that their service gives them a rare opportunity to be able to tell future generations what it was like when the Balkans became part of a free Europe.

Biden visited the troops at Camp Bondsteel to boost soldiers’ morale and show support for the Kosovo Force mission. His visit was the last stop on a three-day trip to the Balkans during which he visited three countries.

Upon his arrival here, Biden first met with the commanding general of the U.S. led Multinational Task Force East, Brig. Gen. Keith D. Jones, and then spoke to the troops, thanking them for their service.

“You're the most visible, most vital symbol of our sense of justice and compassion that could possibly be demonstrated to the rest of the world, you're the embodiment of our deep-seated ethic of selflessness and sacrifice,” said Biden. “You know, you're serving shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO forces that are here; partners from Armenia and Greece, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania and Ukraine. You show the world, and you continue to show the world what happens when nations resolve to stand together to defeat tyranny and to build free societies.”

As a proud father of a National Guard soldier serving in Iraq, Biden remarked on the importance of the National Guard and its relevance in today’s military.

“Without the National Guard we would not be able to conduct the war in Iraq, we would not be able to conduct the War in Afghanistan, and we would most certainly not be able to conduct the efforts being made here,” said Biden. “There’s an old saying that goes, ‘this is not your father’s National Guard,’ its an integral part of every Army operation, and its impossible to deploy a large force of the United States Military without the National Guard.”

The vice president’s visit imparted the importance of the Kosovo Force mission and highlighted the progressive changes that have taken place in the region.

“I look at the progress made since my first visit, and much of it has been attained, first and foremost, by American leadership, backed up by the courage and hard work of NATO military forces like all those standing with you here today,” said Biden.

Biden also said that each soldier has the rare chance to be able to tell future generations about what is was like when for the first time in history the Balkans became a part of Europe.

“We dreamed of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. But the one missing piece of that puzzle remains the Balkans,” said Biden. “Here in Kosovo, you protect the innocent; you protected innocents decade ago, and now you're providing Kosovars the security they need, and the space they need, to build an independent, democratic, and most importantly multi-ethnic state that has never existed in this part of the world.”

Biden talked about what an opportunity the Kosovo mission represents and reaffirmed his support of the mission and how it acts as an example of freedom and democracy at work.

He stressed the U.S. soldiers’ primary mission is to secure freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo and how the troops here do much more than that.

“You're literally building a free, vibrant, productive society from the ground up,” said Biden, praising the soldiers’ work with nongovernmental organizations, international donor organizations, to complete local improvement projects that change the lives of the Kosovo people.

Biden ended his with heartfelt words on the work of the soldiers and their continued dedication to the current mission, freedom, and the United States.

Some of the soldiers who were present for Biden’s speech said they were impressed that a member of the Obama administration took the time to personally come to Kosovo to thank them for what they are doing.

“We have his support while we’re here promoting freedom, and it was a very encouraging thing for him to come out here to let the troops know in person our vice president on behalf of our president is behind us,” said Sgt. 1st Class Maria Weaver, who hails from Alaska.

“It’s an honor to see the administration take time to visit us to show their appreciation,” said Spc. David Noriega, a California Army National Guard soldier. “The speech was very nice to hear that they appreciate our sacrifices and our family that they are sacrificing as well.”