Vice President Mike Pence lavished praise on The American Legion during his speech to delegates Aug. 28 during the organization’s 101st National Convention in Indianapolis.
“The American Legion is making a difference for our veterans.”
It was a bit of a homecoming for Pence, who was governor of Indiana before becoming vice president. “I'm awfully proud to stand with all of you,” he said, blocks from the Indiana Statehouse. “The American Legion is the largest and most influential veterans organization in America, and it's headquartered right here in Indiana.”
Pence vowed the White House would continue to support the nation’s veterans, including the delivery of their benefits.
“We stood by our veterans, giving them the benefits and the care that they deserve,” he said in his 35-minute address. “Under this president and this administration, we will always stand by our American flag. We will always stand for our national anthem. And, just like The American Legion, we will always defend the freedom and sacrifice they represent.”
He noted the change in holding VA accountable for the treatment it provides veterans. A few years ago, several high-profile issues called into question how some VA medical centers were run.
“Scandal after scandal at the VA revealed a cold indifference to the fate of our veterans,” the vice president said. “But those days are over.”
He specifically mentioned the VA Mission Act, calling it the “most sweeping VA reform law in half a century.”
More than 7,000 VA employees have been fired for negligence, Pence said. “The era of abuse at the VA is over. We're not going to put up with it anymore.”
Pence, the son of a Bronze Star recipient from the Korean War and the father of a U.S. Marine, has a long association with The American Legion. In 1977, he won The American Legion Department of Indiana’s Oratorical Contest.
During his address, Pence praised the Legion for its support of children and youth activities.
“You've been busy teaching our young people principles to make our country great, whether it's through the Boy Scouts, American Legion Baseball or The American Legion Oratorical Contest. It was in that American Legion Oratorical Contest that my love affair for the Constitution of the United States of America began. And you have my thanks.”
Pence also hit on a number of other topics important to veterans:
• ISIS: “We've taken the fight to radical Islamic terrorists on their soil,” Pence said. “Five years ago, the so-called ISIS caliphate actually controlled nearly 35,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq. They subjected 5 million people to unspeakable barbarism and oppression. Today,
thanks to the courage of our armed forces and the leadership of our commander in chief, earlier this year the last inch of territory controlled by ISIS was captured. Extraordinary accomplishment for our troops.”
• Korea: Pence said that the U.S. is no longer threatened by North Korea. “Three historic meetings have taken place. North Korea's leader also promised to return the remains of all fallen U.S. servicemembers in the Korean War.”
• Repatriations: More than two dozen Korean War veterans have been identified and returned home. “We will not rest until we bring all our boys home from the Korean War.”
• National defense: Pence said the Army will soon have nearly 300 new M1 Abrams tanks, the Navy will deploy an advanced class of aircraft carriers and the Air Force will receive hundreds of new Joint Strike Fighters, the F-35. “And tomorrow (Aug. 29), the president will install four-star General John Raymond as the first commander of U.S. Space Command. And very soon, we will stand up the sixth branch of our armed forces, the United States Space Command.”
• Homeless veterans: Pence said that the administration has helped 30,000 homeless veterans find permanent housing. “There should be no homeless veterans in America.”
In closing, Pence thanked Legionnaires for their service.
“Thank you for your service. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for doing your part in uniform and standing by our military.”