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  • [applause]

  • Mrs. Obama: Thank you.

  • [applause]

  • Thank you so much.

  • Thank you all; thank you.

  • Good afternoon, everyone.

  • It's so good to be here.

  • [applause]

  • We are so proud of you all.

  • Thank you all.

  • Please, I know you've been working hard,

  • so rest yourselves.

  • [laughter]

  • I am beyond thrilled to be here with all of you today,

  • and I want to start by thanking Larry

  • for that very kind introduction,

  • but more importantly for his tremendous leadership

  • of the DAV and for all of his outstanding service

  • to this country.

  • But most of all, I want to thank all of you here today --

  • the men and women who have served and sacrificed so greatly

  • on behalf of all Americans.

  • Truly, one of my greatest joys over these past few years

  • has been spending time with veterans

  • and military families like all of you.

  • I have laughed with your children at barbeques.

  • I've gone to baby showers with spouses.

  • I've learned so much during my many visits to military bases

  • across this country.

  • I've even smashed a champagne bottle

  • to christen a Coast Guard cutter.

  • [laughter]

  • And let me tell you, day after day,

  • I have been so inspired by your stories -- so inspired.

  • And I'm reminded of one of those stories today,

  • the story of a young man I met at Walter Reed.

  • His name is Sergeant Winder Perez, and he is 24 years old.

  • Now, a year and a half ago,

  • Sergeant Perez was on a combat mission in Afghanistan,

  • when he was hit by an RPG.

  • He collapsed, but the grenade stayed lodged in his left thigh

  • and it didn't go off.

  • Sergeant Perez's fellow Marines ran to his aid and together

  • they chose to carry him off the battlefield to safety,

  • even though they knew that any wrong move

  • would mean certain disaster.

  • Moments later, four pilots and medics chose to load him

  • onto a helicopter with the live explosive still in his leg,

  • transporting him 65 miles to the nearest medical station.

  • And finally, when they arrived, a nurse and explosive expert

  • chose to rush to his aid, finally dislodging the rocket

  • by hand and giving doctors a chance to save his leg --

  • which they did.

  • Now, just that part of Sergeant Perez's story tells you

  • everything you need to know about the men and women

  • of our armed forces.

  • But as all of you know very well,

  • stories like these don't end in the combat zone.

  • Since his injury, Sergeant Perez

  • has endured 30 or 31 surgeries --

  • he doesn't remember the exact number.

  • He has survived a heart attack and an aneurysm,

  • and he's fought through hundreds of hours

  • of rigorous physical therapy to strengthen his leg.

  • And time and again,

  • just when he's regained the strength to walk,

  • his doctors have told him that it's time for another surgery,

  • and then Sergeant Perez is back in a wheelchair,

  • starting all over again from square one.

  • But here is the thing:

  • You don't hear about any of that when you talk to Sergeant Perez.

  • What you do hear about is his mother,

  • who he will tell you has stayed by his side every single day.

  • You will hear about his gratitude

  • to those who saved his life,

  • to the family and friends who come from New York to visit,

  • and for the life he has in front of him.

  • Today, Sergeant Perez is walking again.

  • He's three months into an internship

  • with the Defense Intelligence Agency,

  • and he plans to spend the rest of his career

  • serving his country.

  • And when asked about everything he's been through,

  • Sergeant Perez puts it all in perspective by simply saying,

  • "I just think you've got to get back up."

  • That's all he said.

  • "You've got to get back up."

  • And as I look across this room, I see a group of people

  • who know how to get back up.

  • No matter what you've been through --

  • [applause]

  • -- no matter what the struggles you have faced,

  • you all get back up.

  • And that is what inspires me.

  • That's why, every day, I work to push myself harder

  • to live up to your example.

  • And that's why Jill Biden and I are working so hard

  • on Joining Forces,

  • because we want to honor and serve you and your families --

  • to make sure that you and your families have

  • the educational opportunities you need,

  • the support you've earned and the good jobs you deserve.

  • And if there is one thing that I want all of you to know today,

  • it's this: You will never have to get back up all on your own.

  • Not while we're here, never.

  • [applause]

  • And it's not just us.

  • You have got families who support you day and night.

  • You have countless neighbors and pastors,

  • business owners -- I've met them --

  • even strangers who will snap into action for you.

  • And one important person you have is a Commander-in-Chief

  • who doesn't simply understand your service and your sacrifice.

  • [applause]

  • Let me tell you something about this man,

  • he carries your stories with him every single day.

  • I have seen it in his eyes when he comes home from a visit

  • to a military hospital.

  • I've noticed the extra energy he gets

  • after a military commencement.

  • And I've heard the emotion in his voice after he talks

  • with the families of our fallen.

  • That is the well he draws from as Commander-in-Chief.

  • You are that well.

  • And that's why he has stood up for you

  • again and again and again,

  • and it's why he's going to keep fighting

  • for you and your families every single day.

  • So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome my husband,

  • our President Barack Obama.

  • [applause]

  • ♪ ("Hail to the Chief" plays) ♪

  • The President: Hello, DAV.

  • Thank you so much.

  • Thank you.

  • Everybody, please have a seat.

  • Do we have an extraordinary First Lady?

  • [applause]

  • We will be celebrating our 21st anniversary in October.

  • The first time I saw her,

  • I knew she was something special.

  • [laughter]

  • She was a little more skeptical about me.

  • [laughter]

  • But persistence is the key.

  • You just got to stay on it.

  • Eventually, you can marry up.

  • [laughter]

  • To Michelle and Jill Biden and Joining Forces,

  • we are so proud of the work you've done

  • to help rally America around military families and veterans.

  • I'm inspired by what they are doing.

  • So thank you, Michelle, for your extraordinary work.

  • DAV, I was proud to join at your convention three years ago.

  • [applause]

  • It is wonderful to be back.

  • I want to thank your national commander, Larry Polzin.

  • Thank you so much to the entire leadership team --

  • Joe Johnston, Marc Burgess, Donna Adams,

  • all the incredible spouses and families of the DAV Auxiliary.

  • I want to thank Barry Jesinoski.

  • [laughter]

  • I got it.

  • [laughter]

  • They used to mispronounce Obama too.

  • [laughter]

  • I want to thank Barry and your great team in Washington.

  • Disabled American Veterans, like all veterans,

  • you carry in your hearts the story of brave service

  • that took you to every corner of the Earth.

  • As young men and women, you left home,

  • left everything and everyone you ever knew

  • because storm clouds gathered far across the sea.

  • You had your whole lives ahead of you,

  • but you were willing to risk all of it

  • for this land that we love.

  • Because you know, from hard experience,

  • what we must never forget --

  • our country endures because in every generation

  • there are Americans like you who stand beside her

  • and guide her and protect her.

  • You fought across the Pacific, island by island.

  • You fought into the heart of Europe, mile by mile,

  • freeing millions from fascism.

  • That's your legacy as veterans of the Second World War.

  • You held the line at the Pusan Perimeter

  • and survived the bitter cold of the Chosin Reservoir.

  • And on this 60th anniversary of the end of that war,

  • we salute all of our veterans of the Korean War.

  • [applause]

  • To our Vietnam veterans --

  • [applause]

  • -- you served with valor not just in the thick of the jungle,

  • but through intense urban combat.

  • And let it be remembered that you won every major battle

  • that you fought in.

  • [applause]

  • And so in the decades since,

  • whenever our country has needed you,

  • you said "send me" --

  • from the sands of Desert Storm to the mountains of the Balkans

  • to the villages of Afghanistan and Iraq --

  • and next year, your profound sacrifice will be recognized

  • in the heart of our nation's capital when our country

  • dedicates the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.

  • [applause]

  • That memorial will honor your courage in war.

  • But it will also pay tribute to your bravery

  • in the other battle you have fought --

  • the fight to recover from the wounds of war.

  • And this may be your greatest triumph of all.

  • Because rather than being defined by what you lost,

  • by what you can't do, you've inspired America

  • with what you can do.

  • Maybe you lost your sight, but you can still see the truth

  • that our disabled veterans make extraordinary contributions

  • to our country every single day.

  • Maybe you lost an arm,

  • but you still have the strength

  • to pick up a friend or neighbor in need.

  • Maybe you lost a leg, but you still stand tall for the values

  • and freedoms that make America the greatest nation on Earth.

  • [applause]

  • I think of the wounded warrior who spoke for so many of you

  • when he said, "Your life will never be the same,

  • but that doesn't mean you can't go on to do amazing things

  • with the second chance you were given."

  • I think of wounded warriors across America

  • and how they've used that second chance --

  • volunteering in communities,

  • building homes, being a mentor to local kids,

  • showing up after tornadoes, after Hurricane Sandy

  • to help folks rebuild.

  • I think of the wounded warriors who reached out to the survivors

  • of the Boston Marathon bombing with the example of their own

  • recovery and with a simple message -- "We stand with you."

  • I think of all the inspiring wounded warriors

  • that Michelle and I have met --

  • their resilience, their resolve,

  • their determination to push through and to carry on.

  • That's the fighting spirit of our wounded warriors.

  • That's the spirit of DAV --

  • [applause]

  • -- dedicated not just to your own recovery,

  • but to taking care of each other.

  • Every day you work to ensure that America is fulfilling

  • its promises to our men and women who have served.

  • That's your mission.

  • And I want you to know it is my mission, too.

  • I believe that this work is more important than ever,

  • because this time of war that we've been in

  • is coming to an end.

  • [applause]

  • For nearly 12 years -- ever since we were attacked

  • on that clear September morning --

  • our nation has been at war.

  • Our fight in Afghanistan is now America's longest war.

  • At the same time, our troops fought courageously in Iraq

  • for nine long years.

  • And among us today are proud veterans of the wars

  • in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • Now