Saturday, November 14, 2015

Northcom Chief Hosts Mexican WWII Vets Who Fought Alongside U.S. Troops

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

MEXICO CITY, November 14, 2015 — A top U.S. commander met here yesterday with Mexican air force veterans who fought alongside the United States in World War II.

Navy Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, said it was his honor to meet the members of Mexico's 201st Squadron, known as the Aztec Eagles.

"Thanks for all that you do to keep the tradition alive," he said at a ceremony after a lunch he hosted for the veterans at the American Legion.

Exchange of Mementos

Gortney presented the men with coins and a plaque of the NORAD-Northcom headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They gave him mementos and a certificate of appreciation.

"It is just a privilege to be with wonderful veterans," the admiral said. He told the group it was especially meaningful to meet them, because he is the son of a naval aviator who was a World War II veteran.

The veterans said they were proud and honored to be guests at the lunch.

"Today was a very special day," retired Capt. Fernando Nava y Musa said.

Retired 1st Lt. Heriberto Canete Lopez expressed his pleasure with the afternoon events.

"I'm very happy to [be] sitting here in this place with the best friends from the United States of America. Mexico is grateful to the United States," he said.
The Aztec Eagles were attached to the U.S. Army Air Forces 5th Air Force's 58th Fighter Group during the liberation of the main Philippine island of Luzon in the summer of 1945. The pilots flew P-47D Thunderbolt single-seat fighter aircraft, carrying out tactical air support missions.

Obama: Everyone Has Role to Play in Serving Veterans

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, November 14, 2015 — Everyone has a role to play to ensure veterans have the opportunities and support they deserve, President Barack Obama said today.

In his weekly address from the White House, three days after the nation observed Veterans Day, Obama said gratitude to veterans should extend beyond what they’ve done in the past.

“It should remind us of our responsibility to serve them as well as they have served us,” he said. “It should compel us to keep our veterans central to the ongoing work of this nation.”

Historic Investments

In recent years, the nation has made historic investments to boost the Veterans Affairs Department’s budget, expand veterans’ benefits and improve care for wounded warriors, Obama added.

The disability claims backlog has been cut by nearly 90 percent from its peak, and veteran homelessness has been reduced as tens of thousands of them have been helped to get off the streets, the president said. The veteran unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, lower than the national average, he added.

“Of course we’re not satisfied,” he said. “We’ve still got more work to do, and I’ve directed my administration to keep doing everything it can to fulfill our promise to our veterans.”

But this isn’t a job for government alone, the president said, and all have a role to play.

‘They Know How to Get Stuff Done’

Less than 1 percent of Americans are serving in uniform, Obama noted, so most don’t see and appreciate the skills and assets that veterans offer. But every American should know that the nation’s veterans are some of the most talented, capable people in the world, he said.

“They’ve mastered skills and technologies and leadership roles that are impossible to teach off the battlefield,” he said. “They know how to get stuff done, and as our veterans will tell you themselves, they’re not finished serving their country.” Veterans are teachers and doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs, social workers and community leaders, and they serve in statehouses across the country and in Congress, he noted.

The president said he regularly tells small business owners and CEOs that if they want to get the job done, they should hire a veteran, adding that every sector, industry and community in the country can benefit from their talents.

The Best of America

Medically retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg proved that troops and veterans give the nation their very best, the president said.

Three years ago, on patrol in Afghanistan, Groberg saw a suicide bomber coming toward his unit. Without hesitating, he grabbed the bomber by his vest and helped to push him to the ground. When the bomb went off, Groberg was badly injured, and four of his comrades were killed in the incident, but his sacrifice saved many more soldiers.

Groberg represents the very best of America, the president said, and this week Obama presented him with the Medal of Honor for his actions.

“Veterans like Flo deserve the nation’s gratitude,” the president said. “They deserve the chance to keep serving the country they risked everything to defend. And so we must come together to keep giving them that chance -- not just on Veterans Day, but on every single day of the year.”