WASHINGTON, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- President Obama dined with Iraq War veterans at the White House, praising them and their comrades for their valor on behalf of a grateful nation.
At the conclusion of his 10-minute speech at the formal gathering, called "A Nation's Gratitude: Honoring those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn," the commander in chief raised a glass of what appeared to be water and offered a toast:
"To the country we love, to the men and women who defend her, and to that faith -- that fundamental American faith -- that says no mission is too hard, no challenge is too great. Through tests and through trials we don't simply endure, we are stronger than before, knowing that America's greatest days are still to come. And they are great because of you."
The guests included members of all branches of the military. Seated at the president's table were CW4 Nelson A. Visaya, Gunnery Sgt. Deverson Lochard, Petty Officer Third Class (HM3) Max R. Rohn, Master Sgt. Jeremy D. Coombs, Master Sgt. Jessica R. Coombs and 1st Lt. Paul S. Gonzalez.
They dined on a salad of heirloom tomatoes with baby mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinaigrette, dry aged ribeye with bearnaise, Yukon gold potato croquettes, and chocolate creme brulee with brownie and mini-chocolate malted.
More than 2.8 million Americans have volunteered to join the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States and more than 1 million have been deployed to Iraq where 4,475 of them died and more than 30,000 were wounded.