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Gore Addresses VFW ConventionAired August 22, 2000 - 12:19 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: And we are going to take you now to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, is addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention.
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VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... Ellen's husband, Joseph, served as a sergeant first class in the 2nd Infantry Division in the Korean War. Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve, when Ellen was pregnant with their first child, she received a telegram and learned that Joseph was missing in action. The Army soon determined that he had been captured on the front lines in North Korea and had died on a death march, never receiving a proper burial.
But it took Ellen more than four decades of searching and striving to learn that in fact he had died from wounds of war, and this morning, so many years later, I was very proud to award Joseph Blissenbach (ph) the Purple Heart for his valor in Korea five decades ago.
His courage in America's forgotten war is forgotten no more.
Now, I don't pretend that my own military experience matches in any way what others here have been through. When I enlisted, I became an Army reporter in Vietnam. And I didn't do the most or run the gravest danger, but I was proud to wear my country's uniform.
And my own experiences gave me strong beliefs about America's obligation to keep our national defenses strong. I've believed in a strong defense, I've fought for it all my public service, not just in an election year, but every year. It's important.
I served on the House Intelligence Committee and on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
As a congressman, I took up the issue of nuclear arms control and nuclear weapons, because nothing is more fundamental than our national strength and security.
As a senator, I supported the use of American forces to ensure freedom of the seas during the Iran-Iraq war. I broke with many in my own party and voted to support the Gulf War when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, because I believed America's vital interests were at stake.
These past eight years, as a member of the National Security Council, I have worked to reverse the decline in defense spending, and I'm proud that we won the largest military pay increase in 20 years.
We need to do more, but we've made some progress.
And since the day that I co-founded the Vietnam-era veterans caucus in Congress, I have never stopped fighting for an unshakable national commitment to our veterans.
It's that year-after-year commitment to a strong American defense that makes me so concerned when others try to run down America's military for political advantage in an election year. That's not only wrong, in fact, it's the wrong message to send our allies and adversaries across the world.
As the United States Army reported just this month, all 10 of its divisions are combat ready and able to answer the nation's call. Our Navy has more than twice as many surface ships as China, more than three times as many as Russia, and our Air Force is by far the largest and most modern in the entire world.
If anyone doubts our strength, let them talk to our pilots patrolling the skies over Iraq right now. Let them meet the sailors who have kept the peace in the Taiwan Strait. And let them remember our overwhelming victory in Kosovo, without a single American life lost in battle.
Our military is the strongest and the best in the entire world. If you entrust me with the presidency, I pledge to keep it that way with whatever it takes.
I say to you, today I love this country with all my heart. And I will make sure our military continues to be the best-trained, best- equipped, best-led fighting force in the entire world, bar none.
In this new global age, we need an even greater resolve. In the last century, this nation more than any other freed the world from fascism and communism. Many of you are responsible for those victories. But a newly free world still has dangers and challenges -- challenges both old and new.
And we must always have the will to defend our enduring interests from Europe to the Middle East, to Africa and Asia, and even in our own hemisphere.
Incidentally, I know that -- your Commander Smart (ph) told that in some of your sessions, you remembered the families of those Russian sailors lost in the submarine in your prayers.
And I think that we ought to express a moment of feeling toward the Russian people, for the tragedy that they have endured.
MESERVE: Democratic nominee Al Gore, speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Milwaukee. He said that our military is the strongest and the best in the entire world. And I pledge to keep it that way. I have fought for a strong defense all my public years in public service, not just an election year.
He noted his interest in arms control, his support of the Gulf War, and also his support for the largest military pay increase in the past 20 years.
He responding, to some degree, to charges yesterday made by George W. Bush. The governor had said that this was a military in decline, that it had suffered from eight years of neglect under the Clinton administration.
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