- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2018

President Trump told graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy Friday that they are joining “the greatest fighting force for peace, justice and freedom in the history of the world.”

Speaking to more than 1,000 newly commissioned Navy officers and Marines at Annapolis, the president said the U.S. has regained respect internationally through its military strength.

“In case you haven’t noticed, we have become a lot stronger lately,” Mr. Trump said. “We are not going to apologize for America. We are going to stand up for America. We are going to stand up for our values, and we are going to stand up for our men and women in uniform.”

Mr. Trump pointed to the administration’s $700 billion in spending this year to rebuild the military, plus $716 billion next year.

“We are going to be stronger than ever before,” he said. “And when did we need it more than now? We know the best way to prevent war is to be fully prepared for war.”

He said the Navy fleet will soon increase to 355 “beautiful ships,” and that Congress also has approved the largest military pay raise in a decade.

“We got you a big pay increase, first time in over 10 years. I fought for you,” the president said.

Actually, the 2018 military pay raise — 2.4 percent — was the largest for the armed forces in eight years. Service members received pay raises in 2009 and 2010 of 3.9 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

By law, troops are required to receive a pay raise of at least 1 percent per year.

The ceremony took place in the football stadium at Annapolis, with about 30,000 family members and friends in attendance.

The class of 2018 includes 283 Naval aviators, 134 submariners, 256 surface warfare officers, 70 restricted line officers,15 explosive ordinance disposal officers, 236 Marines and 35 “very tough, very well-conditioned” Navy SEALs, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump said he was given the option of leaving immediately after the ceremony, or staying to shake hands with all the graduates.

“What should I do?” he asked the crowd.

When they called out for him to stay, the president said, “I’ll stay, I’ll stay.”

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