- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2011

Speaking prior to the tip-off of the first-ever college basketball game on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, President Obama said Friday the U.S. needs to “turn our words into action” in support of military veterans.

“We are proud to be here and see a great sporting event,” Mr. Obama said on temporary hardwood court constructed on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. “But the main reason we’re here is, on Veterans Day, we have an opportunity to say thank you.”

Mr. Obama, sporting a grey leather Air Force bomber jacket with “Barack Obama, Commander-in-Chief” inscribed on the chest, strode onto the court with first lady Michelle Obama to greet a crowd of about 7,000 service members and fans of the Michigan State Spartans and the top-ranked University of North Carolina Tarheels.

Mr. Obama said America’s gratitude for service members “does not stop when they take off the uniform.”

“When they come home, part of a long line of those who defended our freedom, we have a sacred trust to make sure that they understand how much we appreciate what they do,” Mr. Obama said.

President Barack Obama speaks to the crowd as first lady Michelle Obama listens before the Carrier Classic NCAA college basketball game between Michigan State and North Carolina aboard the USS Carl Vinson, Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, in Coronado, Calif. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks to the crowd as first lady Michelle Obama ... more >

Part of that commitment, he said, was the administration’s effort this week to “make sure that Congress passed legislation that makes it a little bit easier for businesses to hire our veterans.” The Senate on Thursday approved a renewal of tax credits for companies to hire veterans.

The open-air game is part of the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic. Among those in attendance were honorary captains James Worthy, a former UNC basketball star, and former Michigan State standout Magic Johnson. All of the referees are retired veterans.

The deck of the he 1,092-foot-long, 244-foot-high carrier was transformed into a basketball arena over the past 10 days. The flight deck of the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class super carrier, 4.5 acres in length, was outfitted with temporary bleachers and lights.

The basketball game was stopped momentarily at 7:49 p.m. EST in the middle of the first half for the presentation of evening colors, a daily ritual on board the carrier.

Mr. Obama attended the game before embarking on a nine-day trip to Hawaii and Asia to participate in international summits.

The president said it was especially appropriate to renew the call to aid veterans aboard the Carl Vinson, which has supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The vessel also was the ship aboard which funereal rights were performed upon terrorist Osama bin Laden before a burial at sea in May.

Mr. Johnson told a reporter traveling with the president that he supports Mr. Obama’s re-election because the president is “tough and strong” and can “take charge of America.”

The former NBA star dismissed some of the GOP presidential candidates, saying Texas Gov. Rick Perry “keeps stumbling and stumbling and stumbling,” and businessman Herman Cain “can’t recover” from a series of revelations about sexual harassment complaints against him.

He also said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney “just never seems to take charge.”