White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia - Remarks by President Trump at the Salute to Service Dinner:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Jim. (Applause.) That is a great gentleman. And he’s a big man, isn’t he? He’s a big man. Big Jim. And thank you to Cathy, very much, it’s an honor. Please sit down. Thank you very much.
West Virginia is truly blessed to have someone like the governor and wonderful first lady. And I just want to say that I love this state, which I happened to win by 42 points over a Democrat. (Applause.) Forty-two points. That’s like one of these genius golfers winning by nine, you know? It’s like the same thing.
But I want to thank everybody. I spent the last three days interviewing and thinking about Supreme Court Justices, such an important decision. And we’re going to give you a great one. We’re going to announce it on Monday. And I think you’ll be very impressed. These are very talented people. Brilliant people. And think you’re going to really love it, like Justice Gorsuch. We hit a home run there and we’re going to hit a home run here. And, step by step, we are making America great again. (Applause.)
So Jim asked me to do this. I mean, you know, he did switch from Democrat to Republican. You don’t see that often. (Laughter.) So it’s hard for me to say, “No, I’m not coming.” (Laughter.) I said, “I’m coming, Jim.” And it’s a beautiful place. And I watch these tournaments. I have such respect for these golfers; these great, talented — nobody knows how good they are. They’re really talented athletes.
But we’re gathered here on the eve of the 4th of July to celebrate the courageous men and women who make freedom possible, our brave servicemembers and our wonderful veterans. We love our veterans. (Applause.) Love our veterans.
For 242 years — it’s a long time — American independence has endured because of the sweat, blood, and sacrifice of the American armed forces. We’d be — yeah, you’ve probably been hearing, we may add a little thing called “Space Force.” We have Air Force — “Space Force.” (Applause.) I don’t know if anybody wants to hear that. But we’re thinking very seriously about it because space is becoming very important militarily, as well as other reasons. But it’s the greatest force for peace and justice in the history of the world.
During both the Civil War and the World War II, the Greenbrier served as a hospital for wounded soldiers, so it’s so appropriate. Tonight at the Greenbrier’s first annual Salute to Service dinner, we’re calling upon this rich history, and we’re carrying no the PGA’s proud legacy of supporting America’s heroes.
Joining us for tonight’s ceremony are many incredible golfers who will be competing at the Greenbrier this week. And I’ll be sitting home at the White House and I’ll be watching and saying, “I wish I could play like that.” (Laughter.)
Among those with us — I just said hello to a few of them — Bubba Watson. He’s having a good year. Where’s Bubba? Where is he? Boy, Bubba. (Applause.) He is having a good year. Thank you, Bubba.
Keegan Bradley. Keegan. Great. (Applause.) Thanks, Keegan. Thanks. Thanks, Keegan. That putter is working. I just said, “That shorter putter’s okay.” (Laughter.)
Longest hitter I’ve ever seen, big John Daly. John? (Applause.) John. Boy, he’s — John, I played with John in a tournament that we won — meaning that he won. (Laughter.) He won. You know, it’s funny, he won and then I go back. Everyone said, “How’d you do?” “I won.” (Laughter.) Right, John? He’s something.
And Phil Mickelson. Phil, I’ll tell you. (Applause.) I’ll never forget, I was at — this is — I don’t think Phil can remember this, but like, 15 — where’s Phil? Where is that guy? He’s so incredible.
But it was about 15 years ago, and I was “Donald,” and I’m watching, and the place is packed with people. And Phil’s there, and he sees me, and I’ve liked Phil. And Phil, I think, likes me. And he’s on the third hole and it’s a big deal, a big tournament. And he said, “Oh, excuse me, just a second.” And he gets up, hits a ball — it was a three wood — he hits a three wood, like 280 [yards] right down the middle. Then he comes back, “Okay, good. So how’s everything else?” (Laughter.) And I said, “That really is special talent.” That’s the office, Phil, right? That’s just the office. So it’s really amazing. What a great career. What a great gentleman.
I really want to thank Jim Nantz for leading this evening’s program. Jim, wherever you may be. Where’s Jim? (Applause.) There’s a great, great job. Hi, Jim. Great job, Jim. Really good.
And Slugger White. He keeps everybody honest, right? Where is Slugger? Slugger has done a fantastic job. Nobody plays games with Slugger. (Applause.) I know, at Doral, I tried to move the tees back, and I — he couldn’t, he just wouldn’t let me do it. (Laughter.) There was no doubt about it. Right, Slugger? Slugger is great.
And all of the PGA officials, tournament staff, and the volunteers for their incredibly hard work in putting this really incredible event together. And the job that Jim Justice has done with the course is really spectacular.
Also, with us this evening, is acting VA Secretary — he’s doing a phenomenal job at the Veteran’s Administration — Peter O’Rourke — Peter? Peter? (Applause.) Good job, Peter. Done a lot of work at the VA.
Along with West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito — who’s a good golfer, by the way. (Applause.) Shelley. Good golfer, Shelley.
And Congressmen Alex Mooney and Morgan Griffith. Where are they? (Applause.) Great. Thanks, fellas. Tremendous help to me, getting things passed. You think it’s easy in Congress. Not easy. That’s why I have the great — if I didn’t introduce them as an example today, they’d never vote for me again. (Laughter.) That’d be the end of your taxes. That would be the end of everything.
I also want to thank our great Attorney General from West Virginia, Patrick Morrisey — (applause) — who is fighting a great grace. Patrick? And congratulations to Patrick, running for the U.S. Senate. And he is a tough, strong guy. And he ran an incredible race against some very talented people, and he won. And now he’s got another race and it’s going to be — I see the polls have it very close. You may be surprised to see what’s going to happen. He’s got incredible energy, incredible strength, and he loves the people of West Virginia, like, a lot. So good luck, Patrick. We’re proud of you. Great job. (Applause.)
Speaker Tim Armstead and Majority Whip Carol Miller. I want to thank you very much for being here. And Carol, good luck in the race. I know you’re going to do well. I know you’re going to do well. (Applause.)
And we’re honored to have with us the Adjutant General of West Virginia, Major General James Hoyer of the National Guard. The “Big Cheese.” (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, General. Thank you very much.
Tomorrow, families across our nation will gather to celebrate the 4th of July. As we do, we will think of the men and women serving overseas at this very moment — far away, far, far away from their families — protecting America and watching over our people. They are there, and they are with us, and they are brave. These are incredible people.
And we will thank God for blessing us with these unbelievable heroes. To everyone here tonight that has served our nation in uniform, will you please stand so we can express our gratitude? Please stand. Please. (Applause.)
Tough cookies. Tough cookies. And you know, when it comes to ICE, and Border Patrol, and all of these incredible people that you’ve been reading about who are doing an unreal job, we want border security, we want security in our country. We respect ICE.
You know, ICE is the one. These are tough people. And you have to be tough. And when they have a problem with MS-13 gangs and all of these others that came in through these horrible and weak immigration laws that, Shelley, we’re strengthening up — we’re going to get them done. We need tough laws. We need fair laws. (Applause.)
But when these people come into our country and come in illegally, and then they’re dispersed throughout the country, and all of a sudden you see nests of MS-13 — you know, it’s like you’re liberating towns. We sent ICE in. And for ICE, it’s just another day. Like Phil and John and Keegan, all of the guys, and Bubba — like the way they play golf: They go; they play. They don’t know. It’s hard. They don’t know what that is.
These guys, they walk into those areas, they take them out of there so fast. They’re not afraid of anything. It is — it’s like you’re liberating a town. Like in a war, you’re liberating a town or an area. And ICE goes in there, and they go in there, and sometimes they have to go in swinging. They don’t mind. They’re tough.
And then I hear Democrats saying, “We want to abandon ICE. We want to abandon.” We’re not abandoning ICE. And we’re not abandoning our law enforcement. (Applause.) Just the opposite.
So I want to recognize, today, a legendary hero from West Virginia, a veteran who fought in Iwo Jima. In February of 1945, he volunteered to dash straight into enemy fire to destroy vital enemy fortifications and to clear a path for American forces to continue forward. He went right into the machine gun nests. John Daly wouldn’t do that, and he’s a pretty tough (inaudible). John, would you do that? I don’t think so. Definitely hurt your golf game, John. That’s the end of golf. (Laughter.)
In the face of bullets and bayonets, he risked his life for his brothers-in-arms, and he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Applause.)
Today, Woody Williams is 94 years old. He has dedicated his life to supporting Gold Star families and building memorials to honor our fallen servicemembers. In 2016, thousands were moved by Woody’s patriotic words when he spoke at one of our rallies in West Virginia. He was incredible. I still remember it. And of course, we all remember that wonderful moment when Woody flipped the coin at this year’s Super Bowl.
Woody, you are a national treasure, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. (Applause.) Woody, where are — where is Woody? Where is Woody? Thank you, Woody. (Applause.) Thank you, Woody.
Brave man. Ninety-four. I give a lot of Congressional Medals of Honor. When I say a lot, probably five so far. And it’s really one of my greatest honors to do it. The Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s our highest honor. Woody, fantastic. So often I’m giving them posthumously where they’re just not around. But we hear the stories, and their families are there, and everyone is proud. But every once and a while, we have one that can be given to people that are living, like you, Woody. So thank you very much.
We’re also deeply moved and honored to be joined by a Gold Star Spouse who knows the true price of freedom, Christine Pusateri. Christine’s husband, Chris, was a Sergeant in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Great group. Chris was killed in action in Iraq in 2005.
Christine, tonight we send the love and gratitude of our entire nation. Your husband was a special man. We will hold you and your precious family in our hearts forever. Christine, where are you? Christine. Christine. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you, Christine. (Applause.) Thank you, Christine.
And, Christine, through your husband’s heroic sacrifice, you understand that he has achieved immortality. And our debt to him, and to you, is eternal and everlasting. Thank you very much. Thank you, darling.
From Bunker Hill to the beaches of Normandy and the jungles of Vietnam, Americans in every generation have given their last breath, their last measure of love, and their final moments on this Earth in defense of their country and their countrymen.
Our servicemembers have fulfilled their duty to America a million times over. Now, we must fulfill our sacred duty to them. We must protect those who protect us.
When our servicemembers are in uniform, it is our obligation to ensure that they have the finest equipment, the finest training, care, resources — better than any military on Earth. And when our servicemembers return to civilian life as veterans, we must ensure they have access to the best care, treatment, and support in the world.
We are restoring American security by rebuilding our great military. We have secured, this year — with the help of Shelley and your great Congressman — a record $700 billion for our military. And next year, $716 billion — most amount ever. We’re rebuilding our military.
And when have we needed it more? Outside of wars themselves, when? Think about it. And we’re building it so big, so powerful, so strong. Stronger than we’ve ever been. And hopefully, we’ll never have to use it.
And as the golfers can tell you, the stronger we get, the less likely it is that we will have to use it. But we’ll be at a point, the likes of which we’ve never been as a power. And again, hopefully never having to use that incredible equipment that is built right here. Best in the world, in the U.S.A. (Applause.)
We also gave our great warriors their largest pay raise in eight years. So they got a pay raise. And it was about time. They’ve been waiting for a long time. (Applause.)
And I’m proud, that under my Administration, we’ve passed the largest VA reforms in half a century. I signed into law, just recently, the VA Accountability legislation. And just so you understand, accountability — you couldn’t fire anybody in the VA. They could be sadists. They could be late. They could be bad. They could have lots of problems. They could talk back to you. You couldn’t do a thing.
For 40 years, they’ve been trying to get it passed, and we got it passed. It’s called VA Accountability. And as I’ve said before, we now look at the person that violates our great veterans, and we say, “Jim, get the hell out of here. You’re fired.” (Applause.)
And we can do it. Now, we can do it. You couldn’t (inaudible). If they’re no good — and if they’re good, we reward. We have a lot of great people.
As promised, we opened the White House VA Hotline, and have instituted new transparency on wait times and quality of care. We are processing veteran claims more quickly than ever before. We’re expanding healthcare, so that our great veterans can get care anywhere, and at anytime.
And maybe most importantly — I don’t know, accountability is important, but this is another one. I used to be very proud of myself when I’d be on the campaign trail, and I’d say, “You know, why don’t they just pay a doctor to take care?” Because, as you know, sometimes veterans will stand on line for days and days, for weeks.
Can you imagine Phil Mickelson going to the doctor, and they’ll say, “Good, he should be there in about 12 days”? Twelve days. That’s not acceptable, Phil. Right? It’s not acceptable.
So what we’re doing is — now, if there’s a wait, if there’s a problem, you’re going to a doctor that might be right across the street. You’re going to get taken care of immediately.
People would wait so long; you’d wait weeks. You’d stand on line. You’d literally come back day after day. So now we have what’s called “VA Choice.” And I used to say, “Why don’t they do that?” I didn’t know anything. I thought I was totally brilliant. I thought this was the greatest idea. Then I went to tell people about it, and they said, “Yeah, we’ve been trying to get that passed for years.”
So I was very good at getting it passed because we got it passed three weeks ago. So now you have VA Choice where if you have to wait, you go to a doctor, we pay the doctor. (Applause.) So it’s great, and we’re very proud of that. And we’re very proud of what’s happening at the VA.
In order to maintain our security as a nation, we understand that we must have economic strength as well. And nobody believes it; if I would have said it, they would have said, “What a horrible thing to say, what an exaggeration.” The fake news — they’re all back there. They’re all back there. (Laughter.)
If I would have shot a 75, they’d say, “There’s no way he could do it. There’s no way.” (Laughter.) They might be right about that, actually. (Laughter.)
But they are back there. They would have said there’s no way — 3.4 million new jobs since Election Day. They would have said, “No way.” They would have said, and a lot of people would have said. (Applause.)
Unemployment claims are at the lowest point in 44 years. That means people are working again. (Applause.) African American unemployment is in the lowest it’s ever been. The history of our country — it’s at the lowest in the history of our country. (Applause.) Remember I used to say “What do you have to lose? Vote for Trump. What do you have to lose?”
Hispanic American unemployment, the lowest in the history of our country. (Applause.) By the way, women — I was saying, two weeks ago, “21 years.” Now, I’m saying, “66 years.” I think, within two weeks, I’ll be saying “the lowest in history.” The lowest unemployment in 66 years. (Applause.)
Last year, in West Virginia, per capita personal income grew more than 40 percent faster than the national average. Coal exports — you remember I said “Coal. Coal. Clean coal.” Jim, clean coal. Right? We always say “clean coal.” And what they can do now is incredible with coal. Clean coal exports skyrocketed by more than 60 percent nationwide, and I’m so proud of that.
When we came here, I met with the miners. And I talked to the miners, and I talked to (inaudible) about different way of life. They didn’t want to hear about it. They love digging coal. That’s what they like. They love — their grandfathers, their fathers, their families. And coal is coming back.
And it’s also coming back for another reason: national security. And your governor knows very well, and your senator knows very well what that means with coal. You know, you bomb a pipeline, that’s the end of the pipeline. With coal, that stuff is indestructible. (Laughter and applause.)
You can move it around on a truck, you can dump it at the plant, you can do whatever the hell — you can rain on top of it for a long time. Right, Jim? It can rain like crazy. You can do whatever you want — snow, sleet, wind. You just dump it. It’s there. You hit those pipelines, they’re gone, and that’s the end of it. You’re saying, “Man, we better go out and start cutting some lumber.” (Laughter.) So for national security purposes, I don’t think people talk about it enough — coal.
America is winning again because we’re finally putting America first. We’re putting our country first. Tomorrow, we commemorate 242 years since our forefathers adopted the Declaration of Independence.
In their quest to become a sovereign nation, they knew they would have to defeat the most powerful military on land or on sea. They knew that. They knew that, as they met, thousands upon thousands of British troops were disembarking outside of New York City, preparing to crush the revolution. They were going to crush it quickly. They weren’t even actually taking it seriously.
These patriots knew that their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor were on the line. They risked it all for the promise of more of a just and better future. They wanted this great future in this incredible land. They made the same brave choice as countless others who followed in the generations after them: the choice to stand strong for their families, their principles, their pride, and their God-given rights.
Every time we see an American in uniform, any time we have the chance to shake the hand of a veteran, and whenever we hear the stories of our warriors, we are reminded how truly blessed we are to be American and to live in this land of our great heroes — you. Our great heroes.
This 4th of July, let us pledge to renew the bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as Americans. Let us pledge to expand the blessings of liberty, prosperity, and justice to all of our citizens. And let us always remember that we are one people and one nation, saluting one great American flag. (Applause.)
I want to thank you — to every one of these incredible athletes that are here today. These are PGA players. These are unbelievably talented people. They’re talented in their mind and in their body. Their muscles are strong, but their mind has to be stronger. It’s tough. And these are tough people. These are incredible people. So I want to thank all of you for being here tonight. It’s an honor for me, especially as a golfer. (Applause.) It’s an honor for me.
I want to thank Big Jim Justice. Stand up, Big Jim, come on. (Applause.) He’s about 6’10 and he weighs about — I’m not going to say 450; I won’t do that to you, Jim. But he’s a big man, and he’s done a great job.
Do you know that West Virginia is second in the nation in the percentage increase of GDP? Think of what that means. (Applause.) And Jim just said, “Before we met Trump, that number was not good.” Pretty close to last, right? And combinations of a lot of good people with Shelley, and you, and us.
But now, think of that. Texas was first. Texas. Doing a great job. Great governor there, too. But Texas was first. West Virginia was second — percentage increase of GDP. That’s an incredible accomplishment in a short period of time. Incredible. (Applause.)
I want to thank everyone at the Greenbrier for making this tournament a beautiful tribute to our military. And thanks again to all of the veterans here tonight, and all across America. We love you, we thank you, and we will never, ever forget you.
God bless our Veterans. God bless America. And Happy Independence Day to all. Thank you very much. This is a great honor. Thank you. Thank you.