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President Obama honors Iraq war veterans with White House dinner

February 29, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The East Room of the White House is usually the site of dinners for foreign heads of state. But on Wednesday, it brought together 78 Iraq war veterans and their guests.

Members from every branch of the military donning their dress uniforms and decorated with medals were praised by the commander in chief for a mission accomplished.

"In one of our nation's longest wars, you wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in American military history," President Barack Obama said. "Now, the Iraqi people have a chance to forge their own destiny and everyone of you who served there can take pride."

In addition to the president and first lady, the veterans were joined by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice President Joe Biden.

"I want to say to all of the brass in here and the joint chiefs, we owe you a debt of gratitude because you have trained the finest generation of warriors - and this is not hyperbole - the finest generation of warriors in the history of this country," Biden said.

Army Major Eldridge R. Singleton of Chula Vista completed four tours of duty in iraq. He was the only veteran on the guest list from Calfornia.

"I'm just extremely honored and proud to stand in front of our commander in chief, the president of the United States, and represent all the troops in Iraq," Singleton said.

The few honored men and women represent the more than 1 million who served in Iraq and the 4,488 who never came back. Many at the dinner are heading over to the other war in Afghanistan.

"God bless you and your families," the president said. "May God continue to bless those in uniform and the United States of America."