President Obama and the first family spent the early evening of the Fourth of July thanking military service members and their families for their sacrifice at a barbecue and concert on the South lawn of the White House.
Nearly 1,200 people – service members and their families – showed up to celebrate Independence Day at the White House at a USO concert featuring country music star Brad Paisley and the Marine Corps band.
The president, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and a number of military service members and their families, greeted the crowd from the balcony on the south portico with a comment about the excessive heat, that at 6 p.m. was still hovering in the 90s.
“How’s it going everyone?” said Mr. Obama, who was sporting a short-sleeved navy-blue shirt and khaki pants. “Are you hot? It’s supposed to be hot. It’s the Fourth of July!”
Mr. Obama went on to tell the troops that he is honored to spend the holiday with them and their “extraordinary families.”
“All of you represent what is best in America,” he said. “You serve under our proud flag. You and your families sacrifice more than most of us can ever know — all in defense of those God-given rights that were first put to paper 236 years ago: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“So as your commander-in-chief — but also as an American — I want to invite all of you over to say one thing: Thank you,” he added.
He recognized several soldiers by name, giving a brief description of their stories and sacrifice, including Sgt. Alan Ruehs who “risked his own life [in Afghanistan] to save the lives of four others, and a ‘Coastie’ from my hometown of Chicago,” Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Watson, who was one of the first black women to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy and went on to perform what the president said was “exceptional service” in Iraq.
“As long as I have the honor of being your commander-in-chief, I want you all — our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families — to know this: America will always remember,” he said. “We will always be there for you, just as you’ve been there for us. That’s my promise. That is America’s promise. And that is one that we pledge to fulfill on this Independence Day.”
The only awkward moment came after the president’s remarks, when the Marine Corps band began to strike up the country tune, Rod Atkins’ “It’s America,” and some in the crowd recognized it as one of Mitt Romney’s main walk-out songs.
The military families and other guests were invited to stay for a prime view of the fireworks on the national Mall and Mr. and Mrs. Obama spent more than a half an hour shaking hands and signing autographs.
“So, happy Fourth of July, everybody,” Mr. Obama said. “Enjoy the fireworks. Get some hotdogs. God bless you. God bless your families. And God bless these United States of America.”