(Defense.gov) Before military aircraft screamed over the National Mall and fireworks lit up the night sky yesterday as part of the "2020 Salute to America" event in the nation's capital, the president spoke from the South Lawn of the White House about the contributions of U.S. military personnel to American freedom and history.
"Tonight, we will salute the greatness and loyalty and valor of the men and women who have defended our independence for 244 years," said Donald J. Trump. "We will honor the amazing men and women of the United States military. Never in history has a nation used so much power to advance so much good."
The president said that service members who fought to defend the United States should be remembered for future generations.
"These are great, great people. These are great, great heroes," he said. "Our greatest leaders and heroes should be recognized and even immortalized for coming generations to see."
The president also highlighted military achievements over the last year, including a raid that resulted in the death of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and a strike that resulted in the death of Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The president also highlighted efforts to rebuild and modernize the U.S. military.
"We have worked to fully rebuild the armed forces of the United States," he said. "No enemy on Earth stands a chance. $2.5 trillion we've invested — all made in the USA. We've never had anything near the power in the equipment that we have right now — we did that over the last three years."
After Trump's speech, a flyover of military aircraft preceded a fireworks display on the National Mall. The flyover included representative aircraft from military conflicts of the last 75 years, including World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. Modern military aircraft, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter also performed flyovers. Also part of the event was a cannon salute, and a parachute jump by the Army's Golden Knights, who landed on the National Mall near the White House.
"Today we thank God for the gift of life and for the blessings of liberty," the president said. "We honor the legends of our history, the glories of our founding fathers and the giants of the past, and the heroes of today, who keep us safe, who keep us strong and proud, and who keep us free."